Former ACC manager on bribery and fraud charges

Last updated 05:00 24/11/2010

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Bribery and corruption charges over a $9000 Singapore holiday and $160,000 cash have been laid by the Serious Fraud Office against a former national property manager working for the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Malcolm Mason, 50, shown on court documents as a service account manager, of Miramar, Wellington, has not pleaded to six charges of corruptly disclosing information, accepting bribes and accepting a gift.

The charges relate to providing governmental security officer listings to Paul Coffey, receiving $160,000 for information on ACC's new Whangarei office, recommending a lease with a particular company and taking more than $9000 in relation to a Singapore holiday as a gift from Rohan Hill for having used him as a real estate agent. The charges carry a maximum term of seven years' jail.

In Wellington District Court, Judge Denys Barry remanded Mason on bail yesterday until next month on condition that he not speak to Crown witnesses or to another man charged, that he surrender his passport and not apply for travel documents. As national property manager, Mason was responsible for the buying of premises for the use of ACC, tendering for the suitable development of the premises, and negotiating leases.

A 52-year-old company director from Roseneath, also faced two charges of corruptly giving Mason a gift and corruptly bribing him with intent to influence him. Judge Barry granted him name suppression for 14 days.

SFO chief executive Adam Feeley said the charges, under the Crimes Act and Secret Commissions Act, were the result of a 2 1/2-year inquiry into numerous property development and leasing arrangements involving the ACC.

"This has been one of the most serious investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption cases in New Zealand in many years. It is a timely reminder that despite a global reputation for being the least corrupt country in the world, there are constant and very real threats to that reputation."

Mr Feeley said the SFO's investigations had extended more widely than the people and transactions that were the subject of the charges laid, but that, on the advice of the Wellington Crown solicitor, there were insufficient grounds for any further action.

"There have been wider, and serious, issues raised by this investigation, including procurement processes in the public sector; the process for referring corruption allegations to law enforcement agencies, and the scope of New Zealand's bribery laws."

Mason was removed from his job in April after 32 years when ACC called in the SFO following an internal investigation into a staff member's failure to follow internal policies.

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ACC Minister Nick Smith welcomed the end of the investigation.

"This issue arose as a consequence of me, early in my term as minister, raising concerns about the amount ACC was paying for buildings and for refurbishments. I welcome the fact that the SFO investigation has been completed, has been successful and is resulting in charges before the court, but it's important that I let the judicial process conclude about whether there is guilt."

- The Dominion Post

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