Trial on hold over disclosure

Last updated 05:00 17/05/2014

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The independence of a witness was challenged this week in the South Canterbury Finance (SCF) trial, which has ground to a halt with the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) being called to hand over evidence.

The trial, of former directors Edward Sullivan and Robert White and former chief executive Lachie McLeod, is being heard by Justice Paul Heath in the High Court at Timaru. The trio face a combined 18 charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The trial began on March 12.

The Crown is slowly winding its way through its last witnesses, which had been expected to take until the last week of this month.

On Thursday, Byron Pearson, a partner from Woodnorth Joyce, which audited SCF's books, was to be cross-examined. However, legal argument over the disclosure of documents meant he was not called.

During Pearson's cross-examination on Wednesday it emerged he had been interviewed by the FMA, but this had not been disclosed by the SFO to the defence. The judge decided to adjourn until next week to allow counsel to make application for the disclosure of the documents, while the FMA would be summonsed to disclose documents it holds relating to SCF.

The FMA has already advised that one of the interviews was carried out with the agreement it would remain confidential and it would not disclose the document.

SFO expert witness Grant Graham, who is a partner from Korda Mentha, was meant to start giving evidence on Monday but this will be delayed until the FMA disclosure issue is resolved.

The accused had asked for additional invoices and correspondence, and records from the SFO in relation to Graham's work carried out in the investigation into SCF. This was declined.

Alongside working for the SFO investigating SCF, Graham acted as an inspector for Treasury in relation to the Government's retail deposit guarantee scheme.

In his judgment, released this week, the judge said: "Mr Graham appears to have been frank in identifying the range of appointments he has undertaken with regard to South Canterbury, and the impact of those various roles . . . can be fully explored in cross-examination".

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- The Timaru Herald

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