Well-known Māori performing arts educator Donna Grant has appeared at the Rotorua District Court on charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The SFO alleges Ms Grant used her position in several organisations to fraudulently obtain funding from the tertiary education provider Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and the Tertiary Education Commission.
Mrs Grant held numerous prominent positions with charitable organisations and in the education sector between 2010 and 2014.
She was a trustee of the Te Arawa Kapa Charitable Trust, a member of the board of trustees for the New Zealand Warriors Rugby League Foundation, as well as the executive director of a private training establishment, Manaakitanga Aotearoa Trust.
Ms Grant faces representative charges of dishonestly using documents (a conviction could result in up to seven years of jail) and obtaining by deception (maximum of 10 years of jail) and individual charges of creating a forged document and using a forged document (both carry a maximum of 10 years of jail).
A Tertiary Education Commission and Qualifications Authority investigation in 2014 discovered more than 200 students (including 94 Warriors rugby league players and staff) were issued certificates stating they had completed the Hei Manaaki Māori tourism course.
However, students devoted just one day to the course, which takes 18 weeks to complete.
Certificates were also given to volunteers who helped at the 2013 Te Matanini national haka championships in Rotorua.
A total of 217 certificates were withdrawn by the Tertiary Education Commission and Awanuiarangi was ordered to repay $5.9 million.
Ms Grant has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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