Liquidator denies $80,000 theft

Last updated 14:25 04/09/2012

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Nelson liquidator Patrick Dean Norris stole $80,000 that was deposited into one of his company's accounts as part of a liquidation and spent it on personal items, the Crown says.

Norris, 55, said the money went on fees associated with the liquidation.

He has denied one charge of theft as a person in a special relationship, from a company, Astra Enterprises.

His trial before a judge only opened in the Nelson District Court yesterday.

Norris was the sole director of Nelson based liquidation company Norris Management Services Ltd.

Lawyer Garry Barkle, who is acting for the Crown in the case, said in an opening statement that the charge related to Norris' handling of Astra Enterprises Ltd.

The company went into receivership in 2008 and had $80,960 in a solicitor's trust account to pay a small number of creditors.

In 2009 Norris took over the liquidation from Nelson accountant Christine Johnston. It was her first liquidation.

In August 4, 2009 a cheque for $80,961 from a solicitor's trust account was deposited into an account of Norris' company.

It was not deposited into a trust account or one set up for Astra enterprises.

Barkle said Norris' bank account was more than $7000 in overdraft before the deposit.

By November 2009 the account was overdrawn again, despite the $80,000 deposit and other deposits totalling another $100,000 into the account, he said.

Barkle said Norris spent the $80,000 for personal uses for his own benefit.

Norris had no authority to use the money for his own use apart from administration costs.

Barkle said there was "no evidence of payments to any of the creditors of Astra".

Last March solicitors Ian Ramsay and John McPherson were appointed as inspectors by the Registrars of Companies to investigate the handling of Astra Enterprises' liquidation.

The pair looked at Norris' file on the case and on March 30 police executed a search warrant on Norris' account.

Norris was charged last April.

Barkle said it was not until after that investigation that Norris sent out a series of invoices for work done on the Astra case.

Claims made to IRD for GST did not match work done, he said.

Ramsay started giving evidence yesterday. He said the Companies Office investigated Norris prior to the Astra Enterprise Case as a result of a number of complaints about how he handled liquidations.

That investigation led to separate charges laid against Norris by the Official Assignee about the handling of liquidations of eight companies. Mr Norris successfully defended those charges in the High Court this year. He was also awarded costs.

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Ramsay said after meeting with Norris about the charges passed to the Official Assignee, he received a call from one of Norris' employees telling him he had "missed the most important case".

Once he had been given the name of Astra Enterprise, the Companies Office started investigating it.

Ramsay said they visited Norris in the morning and asked to see the file relating to Astra Enterprises and were given it about 3.30pm that day.

Ramsay said after seeing the file and looking at the account from the police he or Mr McPherson told Norris they could not see how there was $80,000 worth of work there and they thought he had stolen the money.

Norris said the money had gone into fees, Mr Ramsay said.

The trial continues tomorrow.

Norris, who had has a number of tables covered with files and folders, is representing himself in the trial, but has lawyer Tony Bamford acting as his amicus or "friend of the court".

- © Fairfax NZ News

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