$1m cigarette theft pair avoid heavy sentence

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014
Fay Duncan
FAIRFAX NZ
FINED: Fay Duncan was fined $5000 for her part in a major cigarette product theft.
 Richard Duncan
FAIRFAX NZ
GUILTY: Richard Duncan, outside the Hamilton District Court, was convicted and fined $10,000.

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A former Hamilton mother and son convicted of stealing more than $1 million worth of cigarettes have avoided a heavy sentence after earlier paying a "substantial" and confidential amount of reparation.

But although Fay Christine Duncan, 56, and her son, Richard Graham Duncan, 27, have completed their legal prosecution, Judge Philip Connell said they still had the issue of Australian immigration, which may be unimpressed with their new convictions.

Meanwhile, police plan to investigate a black market in Hamilton for stolen cigarettes, with Judge Connell ordering the Duncans to co-operate with police before they head back to Australia.

Fay Duncan was convicted on one charge of receiving $30,000 worth of cigarettes, while her son was convicted of stealing cigarettes totalling $923,876.

However, Judge Connell accepted that there was some speculation around the figure, and also accepted it could be said the theft was worth more than $100,000.

Richard's father, Peter Duncan, gained the contract from Tasman Supplies Ltd (TSL) to fill cigarette dispenser machines around Waikato on behalf of British American Tobacco Holdings NZ Ltd in 2006.

Richard Duncan began working for his father in 2008 but in December 2010, Peter Duncan became ill and asked his son to take over.

Part of taking over meant continuing his theft, which involved manipulating the electronic stocktaking system and gaining extra stock which he then sold to two outlets in Hamilton - a dairy and a retailer.

In March, 2011, TSL completed an audit and noticed a disproportionate amount of stock was missing from its Hamilton branch. It investigated and froze all assets of the Duncan trio.

When confronted by company investigators, Peter and Richard Duncan admitted the thefts.

However, a large amount of stock remained at the family home, which Fay Duncan sold to two Hamilton businesses for a total of $30,000 in May.

The Duncans' lawyer, Phil Morgan QC, explained that Richard Duncan was unaware of what his father was up to until he was terminally ill.

It was then his father helped him to move a large amount of stock because of a pending audit.

Morgan said Richard Duncan simply carried on doing what his father told him to do, with "all his moral judgments were put to one side as Peter Duncan [was ill] with both ignoring the consequences of what they were doing and taking the fatalistic approach of ‘let's just sort all this out later'."

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Morgan said Fay Duncan became desperate as her husband died in May 2011, by which time all their assets had been frozen.

Neither had any criminal convictions and both had since moved to Australia - Fay to work for a roofing contractor in Adelaide, while Richard got married and lives in Sydney.

Morgan accepted that despite being co-operative with investigators initially, Fay Duncan caved in to her emotions as she nursed her sick and dying husband, "in extraordinary circumstances for which they would never have otherwise dreamed of acting".

He urged Judge Connell to give fines to each of them to allow them to get back to Australia as soon as they were paid.

The submission was not opposed by police, and Judge Connell eventually agreed, but made it clear that this was "not to be used as a precedent for the future".

One of the reasons that swayed him was that a very sizeable amount of reparation - well over $100,000 - had already been paid to TSL in confidential circumstances after civil proceedings.

Judge Connell convicted and fined Fay Duncan $5000, while her son was convicted and fined $10,000.

Both were also ordered to pay court costs of $130.

Both declined to make any comment when approached by the Waikato Times.

- Waikato Times

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