Five Star director pleads guilty to theft

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 14:50 27/06/2013
Neill Williams
Grahaeme Cox
SHADOW DIRECTOR: Neill Williams, formerly of Five Star group.

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Neill Williams has pleaded guilty to Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charges relating to the failed finance company Five Star.

In an arraignment hearing this afternoon at the High Court in Auckland Williams changed his plea to guilty on two charges of theft brought by the SFO.

The Crown discharged Williams on five charges of dishonesty under the Crimes Act.

The plea and discharge came on day-four of the Five Star Finance shadow director's trial.

Williams has already been jailed on Securities Act charges laid by the Financial Markets Authority (FMA). He was back in the High Court to face two charges of theft by a person in a special relationship, and five charges of dishonestly using a document.

The 79-year-old was sentenced to three years and seven months in jail in April for misleading investors through Five Star's prospectus.

The trial, which was expected to take up to three weeks and was being heard by Justice Murray Gilbert without a jury, has been vacated.

Five Star Finance and its subsidiary, Five Star Consumer Finance, went into receivership in 2007 owing $54 million to investors. They have since got back just 22.5 cents in the dollar.

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey said on Monday that while Williams was not formally a director of Five Star Finance or its associated company, Consumer Finance, he was variously alleged to be the "mastermind" of related-party transactions that misled investors and breached the company's trust deed.

The firm's three directors - Marcus Macdonald, Nicholas Kirk and Anthony Bowden - have already pleaded guilty to the charges they faced and completed their sentences.

Macdonald, Kirk, Bowden, and Williams, through his wife, were all shareholders in equal proportions of Five Star.

Williams initially referred to the group as the "three musketeers", and from 2001, when Bowden joined as a non-executive director, the "four musketeers".

Williams will be remanded in custody until his sentencing on August 22.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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