Hotel 'owner' kept in the dark

EMMA BAILEY
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014

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A redundant freezing worker had no idea he owned the Hyatt Hotel in Auckland until someone rang him wanting to buy it, the South Canterbury Finance (SCF) fraud trial has heard.

The trial of two former directors, Edward Sullivan and Robert White, and former chief executive Lachie McLeod continued yesterday before Justice Paul Heath in the High Court at Timaru. The three face 18 charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Evidence was yesterday read from the now deceased Peter Symes, who was Sullivan's brother-in-law.

The trial centres around key transactions the Crown argues were intended to hide related party loans. One involved the Hyatt, which was owned by SCF's parent company, Southbury.

When Mr Symes was made redundant as a meatworker in 2003, he gave his redundancy and superannuation payout to Sullivan to invest.

"I trusted Edward and sent the money to him before I spent any of it," a statement he gave to the SFO stated. I was asked by Edward to be the director and shareholder of a company."

He held a number of directorships and in 2008 Sullivan approached Mr Symes to become a director of Quadrant, which had been created to own the Hyatt Hotel.

"Edward explained that he wanted me to be a director because there were too many people from the same company acting as directors of Quadrant. I assumed that he meant SCF and [Timaru firm] RSM Law."

He was told in a letter all decisions would be dealt with by McLeod and Sullivan.

"I note that the letter makes reference to the ownership of the Hyatt. When I received this letter I glanced at it and did not pay attention to the details.

"I trusted Edward and I just accepted what was written on the papers, so I signed them. If Edward had told me that I was to be the sole director of Quadrant, I would have told him that I was not interested in the role."

He was paid $6000 before tax as a director.

"I received phone calls from people wanting to purchase part of the Hyatt Hotel. That was when I realised the Hyatt was involved as well," his statement said.

He then requested to be removed as a director and Sullivan sent resignation forms for him to sign to resign from all the directorships he had held.

Mr Symes' statement was signed on February 11, 2012.

He died before the trial.

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- The Timaru Herald

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