Council fraud appeals partly rejected
Two men who defrauded the former North Shore City Council of more than $829,000 over 10 years have had limited success in their appeal.
Hemant Kumar Maharaj was sentenced to jail, and Suresh Din to home detention in October last year.
The Court of Appeal released a decision today dismissing Maharaj’s appeal against conviction and sentence, meaning he must serve the remainder of his two-year and 10-month jail sentence.
Din had 11 of his 18 convictions quashed, though he has already served almost all of his 10-month home detention term.
His appeal against a further seven charges, relating to using a document with intent to defraud in relation to income tax returns for the 2002–2008 financial years, was dismissed.
Din appealed his conviction on the ground that errors by trial counsel resulted in a miscarriage of justice.
The decision ruled that Din’s legal counsel had in fact made “material errors about the nature of the defence available to Mr Din”. It concluded that Din "was deprived of a fair trial".
The pair were found guilty in June last year of charges including using a document with intent to defraud and dishonestly using a document.
The charges were laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in September 2010, alleging the pair were involved in a corrupt scheme within the North Shore City Council.
Judge Charles Blackie said Maharaj, who was employed by the council, arranged for Din, his friend, to submit invoices to him for road and berm maintenance work that was never completed.
After the invoices were submitted, Maharaj would sign off the work and forward the invoice for payment. The money was paid by the council to Din, and the pair shared the profits.
They used 151 invoices in their scheme, with Din submitting them under the name of the S Din Family Trust.
It was not "particularly sophisticated offending", but it was not detected for 10 years, Judge Blackie said.
"You were a public official and clearly abused the trust your superiors put in you ... and also the community puts in you," he told Maharaj.
The passage of time since the offending started meant it was difficult to work out exactly how much had been taken, but it was thought to be more than $829,000.
The men had been ordered to pay about $145,000 in reparation, which Din had and Maharaj was in the process of getting.
Both were first-time offenders and "of previous good character".
Din had been led astray to some extent by his friend because he felt he owed him for saving his life in a boating incident in Fiji, Judge Blackie said.
He said the convictions and sentences would have "considerable effect" on the men and their families.
Maharaj had been unable to find other work since being dismissed from the council in 2009. He also had considerable health difficulties.
Judge Blackie said the men had not acknowledged their roles in the offending.
From a starting point of four and half years' prison, Maharaj was sentenced to two years and 10 months.
Din, from a starting point of three years' jail, was sentenced to 10 months' home detention and 350 hours of community work.