Top lawyers defend South Canterbury five

UPDATED: Five of the nation's top lawyers including a Queen's Counsel are being employed to defend the South Canterbury Finance five accused of fraud-related crimes.

UPDATED: Five of the nation’s top lawyers including a Queen’s Counsel are being employed to defend the South Canterbury Finance five accused of fraud-related crimes.

The lawyers acting in the case include QC Bruce Squire, high-profile barrister Pip Hall, Canterbury Chamber’s Richard Raymond and Christchurch’s Jonathan Eaton of Bridgeside Chambers and Stephen Rennie of Rhodes & Co.

None of the defendants were present at this morning’s court hearing where the judge granted interim name suppression.

The court put aside a special room for a dozen or so media representatives and provided a precis of the charges. A handful of local people also turned up.

Telephones ran hot in the immediate aftermath of the hearing as the business community sought confirmation of the names.

Only one name was a surprise to those familiar with the company and its dealings.

Some of the defendants are charged jointly with the same offences and others face individual charges.

The charges includes signing off several prospectuses from 1995 onwards, and failing to disclose related party dealings.

Several of the charges involve correspondence with Treasury upon South Canterbury Finance’s application to join the Crown deposit guarantee scheme in 2008.

Others involve failing to disclose specific loans.

UPDATED: The five people accused by the Serious Fraud Office of using South Canterbury Finance to defraud the government of $1.7 billion have been granted interim name suppression.

The five did not appear in the Timaru District Court today for a scheduled laying of charges but their legal representatives successfully sought from Judge Joanna Maze an adjournment until February 13.

The 21 charges the five face were not suppressed and the court documents confirm the ownership shell-games of Auckland's Hyatt Hotel, broken by NBR in 2010, form a key part of the prosecution's allegations.

Five people facing Serious Fraud Office charges over failed South Canterbury Finance will be formally charged in the Timaru District Court today.

But their presence is far from certain as today’s hearing could easily be a procedural one, with a callover requested and the real action delayed to a later date.

In December, the Serious Fraud Office filed 21 charges against five former directors and executive of the failed finance company for fraud exceeding $1.7 billion, the culmination of a 14 month investigation. SFO policy is not to name anyone charged until they appear in court and have the opportunity to request name suppression.

The five will be charged with offences including theft by a person in a special relationship, obtaining by deception, the making of false statements by the promoter of a company and false accounting.

The NBR understands the charges relate to the disclosure of a number of apparently related-party loans, including a $10 million advance reported in prospectuses from South Canterbury subsiduary Kelt to Allan Hubbard's Southbury, and a loan of more than $40 million to a company controlled by a director's brother-in-law to redevelop Auckland's Hyatt Hotel. 

So the South Canterbury five have yet to be formally identified - and suppression is likely to be put in place by the court today -  but the NBR has regularly talked with a number of senior directors and executives and gained an insight into the planned defence.

Blaming the late Allan Hubbard is expected to form the core defence argument in the upcoming trial of five South Canterbury Finance directors and executives.

The trial of the five accused is unlikely to take place until early next year according to legal sources spoken to by NBR.