Fraudulent quake claim payouts sent offshore

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 15:43 11/03/2014
Poulomi Chaterjee
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ
REPARATIONS: Poulomi Chaterjee leaves Christchurch District Court after being sentenced to pay back $15,000 of her fraudulent EQC claims.

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Money from a Christchurch woman's four false EQC claims, totalling $37,487, has passed out of reach to her family in India.

The Mairehau woman, 35-year-old Poulomi Chaterjee, has been ordered to pay $15,000 of the money back over the next five years in reparations, as part of her Christchurch District Court sentencing.

Most of the money went into the bank account of her uncle, who may be approached about having a "moral responsibility" to make some repayment.

In the meantime, Chaterjee is the only person who has been prosecuted and as a university student she will struggle to pay.

If EQC wants the rest of the money, it may have to take civil action.

Chaterjee was sentenced to four months of community detention, 120 hours of community work, and the reparation payment at her sentencing on four charges of dishonestly using documents, which she had admitted in January.

Defence counsel Craig Ruane said she had been authorised by her uncle to make the claims for goods damaged in the quakes.

She made the claims on his behalf, but the broken items and paperwork were not available. When she was asked for supporting documents, she provided material that included photographs taken from the internet.

The money had almost all been sent on to family in India, the court was told.

Judge David Saunders said Chaterjee had not used the money to "live the high life", and he urged probation to arrange placement at an agency for her to do her community work, rather than on a work gang.

"It is a type of dishonesty where the court has to send a clear signal to you and others because of the impact on the public purse and because the whole EQC system relies on people being honest in their claim forms," said the judge.

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- The Press

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