Chch businessman offers fraudster 'a lifeline'

SECOND CHANCE: A psychologist's statement declared that Michael Swann's likelihood of re-offending is low.
SECOND CHANCE: A psychologist's statement declared that Michael Swann's likelihood of re-offending is low.

A notorious fraudster who still owes New Zealand millions of dollars will be freed from jail to live with a prominent Christchurch businessman in his Banks Peninsula mansion.

The Press can reveal that Michael Andrew Swann, 51, will be paroled to Alasdair Cassels' Governors Bay property, worth about $1.35 million.

The home has an indoor pool and harbour views and is surrounded by a vineyard.

Cassels is a director and majority shareholder of Cassels & Sons Brewery and owns the Woolston Tannery complex.

He confirmed yesterday that Swann would be living with him and his family, but he expected it to be for a short time.

Cassels said he had received a call for help from Swann, who needed a place to stay after the Parole Board ruled that another proposed address was unsuitable.

Cassels first met Swann many years ago, but did not consider him a close friend.

He decided to take him in to offer him "a lifeline".

"The guy's served his time and he's trying to get himself rehabilitated; trying to get himself back into the work force. Why should he be cast on the rubbish heap?" he said.

Swann will be employed by a Christchurch company doing engineering and biotech work.

His release from Christchurch Men's Prison comes after he has served less than half of his jail sentence. His release date is July 31.

Swann and his associate, Kerry Harford, were found guilty in 2008 of defrauding the then Otago District Health Board of about $16.9m by invoicing the board for bogus computer-related services.

Swann, the health board's information technology manager at the time, was sentenced to nine years' jail, with a non-parole period of four years.

He was ordered to repay the Crown $9.5m.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesman said yesterday that only $3.2m had been recovered through the sale of seized assets, but the case "remains open".

Swann has acknowledged it is unlikely he will be able to repay the sum in full.

Former health board chairman Richard Thomson, who was sacked by Health Minister Tony Ryall after Swann was sentenced, said he was angry the "sociopath" would be freed at his first attempt at parole.

Thomson, now a Southern District Health Board member and a Dunedin City councillor, said Swann still refused to co-operate with the district health board over outstanding legal matters.

Swann had hoped to live at his boss' address, but the Parole Board was concerned at the potential for "collusion".

A psychologist's report assessed Swann as being at a low risk of reoffending, and prison staff supported him in letters to the board.

The Press