Regional | Fraud

Sibling fraud leaves Māori land-owners at loss

Brother and sister duo Stephen Henare (60) and Margaret Dixon (59) have been charged with fraud. The duo face Crime Act charges of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ due to their roles as trustees for the Parengarenga 3G Trust.

Henare has been remanded on bail after he appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday, while Dixon is yet to be determined as she failed to appear.

Parengarenga is a block of Māori land located in Te Tai Tokerau District in the far Norrth which is managed by the trust.

Henare and Dixon were appointed as trustees in 2012 alongside five others. In August 2012 $1.1 million was transferred from the Māori Trustee to the Parengaregna 3G Trust bank accounts primarily for management of the land and forest. In addition a further $54,480 was also obtained by the trust from the sale of carbon credits.

Between August 2012 and January 2014 unpaid debts arose pertaining to the maintenance of the forest due to a series of unauthorized payments being made from the Parengaregna Trust account to the duo.

Allegations that Henare and Dixon intentionally failed to deal with $934,270.30 of the Trust’s funds in agreement with the Trust’s direction by transferring a large amount of money into various bank accounts including their personal accounts are being investigated. Furthermore it is alleged that Henare also failed to deal with an additional $149,627 without the help or input of Dixon.

Serious Fraud Office Director, Julie Read said, “As trustees, Mr Henare and Ms Dixon were kaitiaki, guardians. They were required to deal with the property in accordance with the requirements of Parengarenga 3G Trust Order and in doing so to ensure the forest thrived for the benefit of all. The SFO believes their fraudulent activity has jeopardised an asset which was meant to benefit generations to come.”

The defendants will next appear in the Auckland District Court on 21 November.