South Canterbury Finance fraudster declined parole
The man who stole about $64.5 million by defrauding South Canterbury Finance, in one of the country’s largest fraud cases, has been declined parole.
In 2012, Gavin Clifford Bennett was sentenced to eight years in jail after pleading guilty to submitting nearly 900 false invoices to South Canterbury Finance over a six year period.
The Christchurch District Court found Bennett stole about $64.5 million, causing South Canterbury Finance direct losses of about $23 million, in what Judge Jane Farish called “unprecedented” fraud at the time.
Bennett appeared before the Parole Board for the first time earlier this month, but in a decision released today he has been declined parole.
The decision says while Bennett’s conduct in prison has been “above reproach,” including gardening work, there were some questions about his insights into his offending.
“He referred to the ‘alter ego’ of his company which was the driving force behind his actions, although to the psychologist and again to us today, there was a certain resistance in being able to deal with the personal gains derived from his offending,” the Parole Board says.
Bennett's fraud involved the use of his company DataSouth to run a Ponzi-style network of loans from South Canterbury Finance in order to sustain a lavish lifestyle.
He channelled $7.8m to personal New Zealand and Australian bank accounts or credit cards used for personal expenses during the period of offending.
This included nearly $A1 million in regular payments to “various female companions,” $A463,000 in rental payments for luxury apartments, $A429,000 on food and beverages, and $A163,000 on designer clothes from Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Chanel, Georgio Armani, Gucci, Harrods in London and Bloomingdales in New York.
The Parole Board says Bennett proposed to live with his ex-wife and adult daughter when he leaves prison, with both attending his parole hearing in support.
He was “ashamed” of his actions but had taken responsibility and had significant support for his release.
“He says what matters to him now are those who supported him during the period of his offending and his time in prison.”
The nature of Bennett’s offending and his low risk of re-imprisonment, however, meant he did not qualify for any Corrections intervention to help support his release to the community.
The board says it is in “no doubt” such intervention is required before he leaves, and declined parole because it could not be satisfied he would not pose an undue risk to the community.
“We are most concerned that after such a long period of effectively deceiving those who are now going to support him on his return to the community, that they have a very clear understanding of what the warning signs are so that they can intervene if and when the need arises.”
Bennett will appear before the board again in December, where it was recommended he present a network support plan in support of his release.
Read the decision here.
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