Appeasement: Cops close $100k fraud inquiry because Northland detectives were diverted to investigate Christchurch mosque shootings

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Cops close $100k fraud inquiry because Northland detectives were diverted to investigate Christchurch mosque shootings

A business owner is irate and facing financial ruin after he was told by police they had been left too stretched by the Christchurch terror investigation to pursue an alleged $100,000 fraud.

The Rotorua businessman, who runs a manufacturing and exporting company, discovered his accounts manager and her husband had taken over $100,000 from the company’s bank accounts for personal use including trips to Bali and Tokyo.

“It was devastating for us,” the businessman said of the alleged fraud.

He laid a complaint with Northland police late last year and a detective spent a day with the businessman’s wife helping her compile all documentation relating to the alleged fraud.

The alleged offenders had confessed to acting “improperly” to the businessman through their lawyers.

An agreement was made for the couple to pay back the money, however only $27,000 was paid back to the company with over $100,000 still remaining.

ANDY JACKSON/STUFF  A fraud inquiry was shelved by police, who cited the Christchurch mosque shootings as a reason for stretched resources.

“These people were family friends, which made it really hard. That’s why we gave them lots of opportunities to try to pay it back which is what police suggested. It took nine months of negotiating with them and in the end we couldn’t get hold of them and they stopped communicating with us.”

On May 6, police wrote to the businessman to say they would not be pursuing the complaint.

“In light of recent events taking place in Christchurch, Northland District staff are being redeployed to assist with inquiries in relation to this event both here in Northland and also in Christchurch.

“As at 25 March 2018 the ISU team have been reassigned to work assisting with these inquiries. We have been asked to assess all files we are holding and prioritise if further action is to be taken.”

The businessman said their retirement plans had been “thrown out the window” and he was shocked at the police response.

JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF   Members of the Muslim community gather for a peace vigil, held in North Hagley Park outside the Masjid Al Noor Mosque in Deans Avenue. to remember the 51 lives that were lost on March 15.

“As far as I’m concerned these people have stolen over $100,000 off us and they’re going to walk away without anything at all,” he said.

“It’s affected our business hugely. It nearly destroyed the company, we were that close to receivership and we’re still recovering. This has affected us, our family, our children and our parents. We’re over 60, this is our retirement, it’s all been thrown out the window.”

Unable to afford to pursue a claim through the civil courts, the businessman said he was now out of options and had to wave goodbye to the money.

He had also laid a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

A police spokesman said the incident was “complex in nature”.

“Lawyers for both the complainants and alleged offenders had engaged in an agreement for payment of money taken, which had been completed in part. Neither the complainant nor their lawyer had clarified why the full amount was not paid.”

Police had spent “a considerable amount of time” with the businessman’s wife trying to progress the complaint.

A police spokeswoman said there was no national directive or policy to close files as a result of the terror attack.

ROSA WOODS/STUFF National’s police spokesman Chris Bishop said becoming a victim of crime was “distressing”, regardless of the circumstances.

“Decisions regarding the management of files are made within district, and these decisions are made based on a range of factors including the Case Management policy.

“In a perfect world we would fully investigate every complaint, however the reality of policing is that we will always need to prioritise.”

The impact of the mosque shootings, New Zealand’s largest ever murder investigation, had been “considerable”.

“However it is absolutely incorrect to assume that files are closed only because of the allocation of resources following the Christchurch attack.”

National’s police spokesman Chris Bishop said becoming a victim of crime was “distressing”, regardless of the circumstances.

“While I wouldn’t comment on individual cases, I expect Police Minister Stuart Nash to ask police how many cases have been put aside and seek assurances that serious crimes will continue to be investigated.”

Nash pointed to previous press statements.

According to PwC’s Global Economic Crime Survey 2018, half of New Zealand businesses fell victim to fraud in over a two year period, up from 40 per cent in 2016.

Shannon Parker, who runs the New Zealand Police Conduct Association, which advocates for police complainants, said she understood Northland police were already operating under “stretched resources”.

“Given this I would hate to think Northland police staff are being deployed to Christchurch, resulting in police closing files off just to clear the workload.”

She said fraud complaints were not a priority for police across the country.

“This would be hard to swallow for any complainant, more so considering Police do not appear to have closed the file due to no offence being detected.”

An official inquiry looking at the circumstances leading up to the Christchurch terror attack of March 15, which killed 51 people, will begin next week.

MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ   Police said the case was was “complex in nature”.