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Former National Finance director convicted after SFO investigation

Former National Finance 2000 director Trevor Ludlow has been convicted in the Auckland District Court of seven charges under the Crimes Act after an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Wednesday, July 27th 2011, 9:48AM

The charges related to theft by a person in a special relationship and false accounting under sections 220 and 260 of the Crimes Act. He had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of theft, and was found guilty of the six remaining charges by Judge Bouchier last night.

Ludlow, who represented himself throughout the trial, was found to have breached the terms of the Trust Deed under which National Finance operated, defrauding investors of an estimated $3.5 million. This included approximately $2.7 million of unauthorised or unsecured advances made to his Payless Car group of companies as well as undisclosed related party transactions totaling more than $800,000 to an audio company, a property in Fiji and land purchased for another company he owned.

SFO acting director Simon McArley said Trust Deeds play an essential role in regulating the finance industry, and that apparent breaches of these requirements was a common element across a number of companies being investigated by the SFO.

"This is a positive conclusion to what has been a complex investigation," he said.

"The SFO is committed to rebuilding investor confidence in New Zealand’s finance industry and this result demonstrates that those guilty of misapplying investor funds will be held to account."

In November 2010 John Gray, the former National Finance accountant, pleaded guilty to theft by a person in a special relationship and one charge of false accounting. He was sentenced to a term of 18 months imprisonment, later reduced on appeal to nine months home detention.

Ludlow is expected to next appear in court on August 12.

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