History of the SFO

The Serious Fraud Office was established in 1990, under the Serious Fraud Act of the same year. This was one of a number of responses to the collapse of capital markets at the time. Special provisions within this act included:

  • The ability to obtain any information or documents relevant to an investigation from any person
  • The ability to compel any person to attend interviews, where they must honestly and fully answer questions on any matter relevant to an investigation
  • The Director’s decision to investigate any particular matter was not open to review.

Over the years, we have successfully investigated a number of high-profile cases of white-collar crimes including:

  • Equiticorp director Allan Hawkins, who was convicted of conspiring to dishonestly use a system designed to disguise the source and disposition of money; as well as four counts of defrauding Equiticorp. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment.
  • ACT MP Donna Awatere Huata, who was convicted of using documents to defraud and attempting to pervert the course of justice. She was sentenced to 2.75 years imprisonment.
  • Former Auditor General and ACC boss, Jeff Chapman, who was convicted of 10 charges of fraudulently using documents.
  • Former rugby league players Brent Todd and Hugh McGann, as well as a North Harbour Rugby CEO, were convicted of frauds relating to unlawful ‘kickbacks’ from the operation of gaming machines.
  • Otago District Health Board CIO, Michael Swann, who was convicted of defrauding the DHB of approximately $16.9M. He was sentenced to 9.5 years imprisonment.

The SFO has recently gone through a period of change, in which it has assumed new responsibilities for dealing with complaints of bribery and corruption. It has also adopted a new organisation structure to better respond to trends in white-collar crime; restore and increase confidence in capital markets; and protect the interests of consumers and investors.

We continue to grow our capabilities as New Zealand’s leading forensic investigators of large-scale and complex financial crimes, while working collaboratively with a network of regulatory and law enforcement agencies.