David Ross loses jail term appeal

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 17:02 25/06/2014

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David Ross, the man behind the single biggest fraud in New Zealand's history, has lost his bid to have his "unreasonably crushing" minimum jail term reduced.

In November Ross, 64, was jailed for 10 years and 10 months for operating a fraudulent scheme in which private investors lost about $115 million.

His company, Ross Asset Management, fleeced at least 700 investors through portfolios in which they thought they had more than $380m.

Earlier this month he appealed against the minimum non-parole period of five years and five months, half his full sentence, on the grounds it was "manifestly excessive".

The sentence was equivalent to roughly one day for every $60,000 he stole from investors.

Ross' lawyer Gary Turkington had questioned the point of such a lengthy minimum sentence, saying it was "just too much".

A minimum non-parole period of four years was sought, accounting for Ross' personal circumstances in the case.

But today, Court of Appeal judges Venning, French and Mallon dismissed the appeal.

In the judgment Justice Venning said the minimum non-parole period could not be said to be manifestly excessive.

"There was no need to deter Mr Ross from further offending or to protect the community any further.

"An MPI [minimum period of imprisonment] of a sufficient length was required to hold Mr Ross accountable for the harm done to the numerous victims (some 772) and the community generally by the losses caused and also to denounce his dishonest conduct over such a lengthy period of time."

Turkington had said the sentence was "unreasonably crushing" for a man in his "twilight years", and it would mean Ross dwelling without hope in prison.

He argued Ross would emerge from his prison term "with nothing", but actually it seemed he had a newly bought $725,000 house waiting for him.

Ross's wife, Jillian, has recently bought a house in Lower Hutt, with her husband's initials appearing on the phone listing in the White Pages.

Property records showed Jillian Ross bought the home with her brother for $725,000.

Ram Investors Group head Bruce Tichbon said after the hearing Ross' appeal "smacks of crass insincerity" and many of his victims would die destitute without ever knowing the final outcome of the Ram fallout.

"I hope I outlive the bastard."

The non-parole period of anyone serving a sentence of imprisonment of more than one year is usually a third of that sentence, which in Ross' case would equate to just over three years.

During sentencing at the end of Ross' trial, Judge Denys Barry said he was a liar and a thief on a scale unprecedented in New Zealand.

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At the appeal Turkington said Ross was allowed a "worthwhile existence", and it was accepted he was responsible for a very bad fraud which caused incalculable harm.

"He, on that basis, has done what he can to make up," he said.

Crown lawyer Mathew Downs said there was little to commend Ross' case.

The offending was of an unprecedented scale over more than a decade and there had been a profound impact on a number of victims, he said.

"Many of those people are also in their twilight years," he said.

Ross has been in prison for about nine months, and has already been granted temporary removal twice for medical reasons.

The appeal was filed less than a month after Ross was sentenced, which investors labelled as a "poke in the eye" and "slap in the face".

In August, Ross pleaded guilty to four charges of false accounting and one of theft by a person in a special relationship.

He also pleaded guilty to providing false information to the Financial Markets Authority in applying to become an authorised financial adviser.

The prosecution was brought by the authority and the Serious Fraud Office.

- Stuff

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