Wellington Scoop

Sir Ngatata Love sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in jail for fraud

Report from BusinessDesk by Sophie Boot
Former Treaty of Waitangi claims negotiator Sir Ngatata Love has been sentenced to two years and six months in prison after being convicted of taking a secret payment of $1.5 million while chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust.

At the High Court in Wellington, Justice Graham Lang said the maximum penalty for the charge was seven years imprisonment, and an appropriate starting point would be four years nine months. Had Love been the sole offender, the judge said he would have accepted a starting point of five-to-five-and-a-half years, but lowered it because of Lorraine Skiffington’s involvement.

“I don’t know what kind of influence she had, but the fact she must have had some influence is the only inference to be drawn after you led such a blameless life in the past. What you cannot escape is Ms Skiffington was not a trustee,” Justice Lang said.

“The most important factor is the fact that your offending involves a gross breach of trust,” the judge said. “The other trustees left it to you to deal solely with the developers. You took advantage of the trust they placed in you to acquire a very substantial sum of money.”

Justice Lang said Love was entitled to a 30 percent discount, or 18 months, for his historical contributions to Maoridom.

“For more than 40 years you have devoted yourself selflessly” to Maori development, the judge said. “Those actions make you an inspirational leader in Maoridom so you are entitled to very significant credit for that.”

Love’s health conditions merited a further discount of nine months, the judge said.

“The issues you present with can be managed within a prison environment, However, your admission will need to be carefully managed.” Justice Lang said Love will need to be closely monitored.

The judge chose not to give a further discount which would make Love eligible for home detention, saying the sentence was designed to be a deterrent and that he didn’t see Love acknowledged the damage he had caused.

“I do not see any remorse for what has occurred,” Justice Lang said.

The Tenths Trust, a Maori incorporation, submitted a victim impact statement, from which the judge said it was clear Love’s offending had had a profound effect on the trust, both financial and otherwise.

“This has caused all kinds of issues for the trust,” Lang said. “It has had to devote an enormous amount of time and effort to provide information to the Serious Fraud Office.”

The Crown submitted the judge should make an order for reparations, on the basis it may provide a means to unlock the equity in the house held by Love’s trust.

The judge said Love has no means of meeting any order of reparation other than through the sale of the Plimmerton residence, but he isn’t a trustee of the trust through which he owned half the property any more.

“I see no practical utility in making an order for reparation,” Justice Lang said.

The trust can register its interest in the property through other legal action taking place around the house, the judge said.

“You were seen as the leader of the trustees and held up in high esteem,” Justice Lang said. “You never disclosed that the developers were prepared to pay $3 million dollars for the right to develop the land.”

Love’s lawyer, Colin Carruthers QC, said he had been given instructions to appeal in case of a sentence of imprisonment and applied for bail pending that appeal, which was declined.

The Court of Appeal can hold a hearing on Nov. 14, and Justice Lang said he will reconsider his decision if new evidence becomes available.

Crown prosecutor Matthew Ferrier said the precedent was for the court’s decision to be treated as correct, and the length of sentence imposed was middling.

News from Serious Fraud Office
Sir Ralph Heberley Ngatata Love faces a period of two years, six months’ imprisonment after receiving his sentence in the Wellington High Court today for Crimes Act offending.

Sir Ngatata Love was found guilty last month of one charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ following a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecution and a three-week trial.

The prosecution related to a significant commercial property development project which was undertaken in Wellington. The project involved land owned by the Wellington Tenths Trust of which Sir Ngatata Love was the Chair. Sir Ngatata Love arranged for himself and his partner, Lorraine Skiffington, to obtain control, for their own benefit, of a premium the prospective developers were prepared to pay to secure a leasehold interest in the property. This was done without disclosure to, and in secret from, the remaining Trustees of the Wellington Tenths Trust.

As a result of an agreement reached with the prospective developers, payments totaling $1,687,500 were made to a company associated with Ms Skiffington. These payments were concealed from the Wellington Tenths Trust.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, “Sir Ngatata Love’s influence was once immense. The sentence imposed today reflects a gross abuse of trust. By Sir Ngatata Love’s actions, he deceived his fellow trustees and gained personally at the expense of the Wellington Tenths beneficiaries, whose interests he was supposed to protect. It is a sad day for his iwi and for those who placed their confidence in him as a respected Maori leader and a champion of Maori development. It also serves as a reminder that the law applies to everyone. The SFO will continue to pursue those who abuse their positions of trust for personal gain, regardless of their status in the community.”

It has been indicated that Sir Ngatata Love intends to appeal.

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  1. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 7. October 2016, 17:48

    A terribly sad outcome. I can’t really see how jailing a frail old man for 2 1/2 years will serve the cause of justice, given his previous service to the Maori community and his complete loss of mana.

  2. Warren, 7. October 2016, 18:08

    What if it had been your $1.5m, Chris? That’s $1.5m less for frail or under-privileged members of his iwi, because he wanted a flash beach house.

  3. Hel, 7. October 2016, 19:25

    I’m sorry Chris but there is no mana from defrauding the people who you’re meant to be representing and who have genuine needs.