'Trusted employee' denies fraud, theft

Last updated 05:00 20/08/2014

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A man facing 119 theft and fraud charges relating to more than $600,000 was a trusted employee, the Invercargill District Court has been told.

Paul Graham Yeo, 55, is on trial before Judge Michael Turner.

Two of the charges were dismissed yesterday, leaving Yeo to face 119 charges, including theft by a person in a special relationship, dishonestly using a document, obtaining by deception, causing loss by deception and forgery.

Yeo has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Crown lawyer Sarah McKenzie, in her opening address on Monday, told the court that about half the charges arose from when Yeo was employed by Power Farming and related to items of machinery that went missing or Yeo receiving money and banking it into his own account.

The rest of the charges related to a business Yeo later went into with an associate.

Power Farming group of companies chief financial officer and company secretary Kevin Stowers, who earlier told the court Yeo was employed by Power Farming as dealer principal in Southland, continued giving his evidence yesterday and told the court Yeo had been a trusted employee.

The comment arose after defence lawyer Roger Eagles questioned Stowers on whether there was any prohibition on Yeo banking cheques into his own account.

Stowers said common sense should have dictated that.

The question of who owned stock also arose.

Before his move to Power Farming, Yeo had sold his business, Small Bore Tappers. He brought the Husqvarna franchise with him and Power Farming paid the outstanding debts.

Stowers conceded it was possible some items of stock that Yeo had from his previous business had not been bought by Power Farming.

He had been mopping up his old business, so may have retained some stock, he said.

Questions were raised over whether Yeo or Power Farming owned some of the property sold.

Eagles asked Stowers where the written contract was that set out exactly what Power Farming bought from Yeo's business but Stowers said he hadn't seen it and hadn't been a party to that agreement.

He was unaware whether there was confusion over which items Yeo personally owned and Power Farming believed it had paid for.

Eagles put it to Stowers that just because Power Farming had paid some debt it did not necessarily mean the company took ownership of all assets. Stowers said it would indicate the company expected to have ownership of those assets.

While discussing the charges yesterday, Eagles frequently asked Stowers whether it was possible Yeo had told him he thought the property was his. Stowers said no.

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Stowers told the court Power Farming was out of pocket, had written off a lot of stock and had a lot of tidying up to do with debtors' accounts.

The trial continues today.

- The Southland Times

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