Multimillion-dollar gas theft alleged

Last updated 10:38 22/11/2012
Ronald Rosenberg
Ronald Peter Rosenberg appeared in Wellington District Court today on 41 charges of dishonest use of documents.

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Two Wellington businessmen face jail after allegedly stealing millions of dollars of gas from the Maui gas pipeline.

Ronald Peter Rosenberg, a 71 year-old who lives in a $3.3 million apartment on Wellington's Oriental Parade, appeared in the Wellington District Court today, facing 41 charges of dishonest use of documents, which carries a maximum sentence of up to seven years in jail.

Former general manager Sydney Lio Hunt, 44, of Paraparaumu, is jointly facing the charges.

The charges relate to Rosenberg's time as managing director of E-Gas, a Johnsonville-based company which sold gas to about 7000 mainly business customers.

At the time it was placed in voluntary liquidation in October 2010, it had a 9 per cent market share of New Zealand's wholesale gas market. In July, then-SFO chief executive Adam Feeley said E-Gas allegedly under-reported its gas consumption by 950,000 gigajoules, worth about $8.74m, and in doing so it avoided pipeline penalties worth $8.67m. The offending allegedly took place between April 2005 and October 2008.

Under gas industry rules, retailers report to Maui gas pipeline operator Vector how much they use each month. Mr Feeley said that where there were discrepancies, Vector apportioned costs across the retailers - typically major companies such as Contact Energy and state-owned Genesis. In this case, the discrepancies became so large that independent experts were brought in to investigate metering, and ''as that came to light, E-Gas went to the wall''.

Rosenberg, who according to court records gave his occupation a ''retired pharmacist'', is a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand.

The society has declined to comment on the charges Rosenberg is facing, with chief executive Richard Townley unwilling to even give details of when he headed the organisation.

Judge Peter Butler remanded the pair on bail for a pre-committal next Thursday.

Outside court, Rosenberg's lawyer Richard Laurenson declined to comment on the case, but confirmed that his client denied the charges.

Rosenberg has also been a significant figure in the New Zealand horse racing.

In 1991 he and three friends bought a colt named Our Maizcay for $7000. The horse would go on to become one of the fastest horses ever to race in New Zealand. It won 13 of its 19 races, including the 1995 Caulfield Guineas, before retiring to stud following injury.

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Contact Hamish Rutherford
Business reporter
Twitter: @oneforthedr

- The Dominion Post

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