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Jail time for Five Star Finance 'mastermind'

Neill Williams, in his late 70s, has been sentenced to three years and seven months' imprisonment.

Georgina Bond
Fri, 19 Apr 2013

Five Star Finance group defacto director Neill Williams has been sentenced to three years and seven months’ imprisonment for his role in the group's collapse.

The sentencing at Auckland District Court today is more than two and a half years after Williams, in his late 70s, pleaded guilty to charges of misleading investors, left $97 million out of pocket.

They included making a false statement in a registered prospectus, one charge of making false or misleading statements in financial statements and 12 charges of offering securities to the public for subscription without the required offer documents.

The Financial Markets Authority, which brought the charges, say Williams was generally recognised as the founder of Five Star and was an integral part of all its major strategic decisions.

But because of his prior association with two other failed finance companies he was not named as a director of Five Star and his name did not appear on any Five Star documents.

Five Star Consumer Finance and Five Star Finance owed $97 million to 2300 investors when they collapsed in 2007.

Williams' sentencing was delayed by his attempts to back out of his guilty plea, arguing it was his ill health which influenced him to plead guilty to the charges.

FMA head of enforcement Belinda Moffat says Williams' offending was at the highest end of the spectrum and his desire to fly under the radar to hide his real position from the investing public added a layer of deception to his activity.

“Investors have a right to know who is at the helm of the companies they trust their money to, and this judgment should act as a reminder of that,” she says.

Five Star directors Marcus Macdonald and Nicholas Kirk were in 2010 sentenced to jail terms of one year and six months and one year and nine months, respectively, after pleading guilty to misleading investors.

Anthony Bowden, who also pleaded guilty, was sentenced to home detention.

Under the Securities Act, the conviction means all three men are banned from managing companies for five years.

Georgina Bond
Fri, 19 Apr 2013
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Jail time for Five Star Finance 'mastermind'