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Business owner sentenced for defrauding government-funded trust

By Sam Hurley on Friday, 6 October 2017

A business owner has been sentenced to home detention for defrauding a government-funded trust.

Atish Narayan, 39, was sentenced today in the High Court at Auckland by Justice Mark Woolford to six months' home detention for two counts of breaching the Secret Commissions Act by corruptly giving an agent reward or inducements and one charge of obtaining by deception.

Narayan, the owner of Pit Stop Otahuhu, was approached in January 2013 by an asset manager for a trust.

The Herald cannot name the asset manager, the trusts, or the work undertaken by the trusts after Justice Woolford suppressed those details to protect the integrity of the asset manager's High Court trial next year.

The asset manager has pleaded not guilty to five fraud charges.

The Herald can, however, report that the trust Narayan defrauded receives funding from a government ministry.

The court heard that the asset manager was responsible for the maintenance of the trust's vehicles, and approached Narayan to have the cars repaired at his South Auckland garage.

However, between January 22, 2013 and April 24, 2014 Narayan began invoicing the trust for jobs and withdrawing a percentage in cash to give to the asset manager.

With the influx of new funds, Narayan expanded his business ventures to own ART Automotive Limited in Hamilton, where a similar arrangement was made with the asset manager.

In total the trust paid Narayan $679,944 for vehicle repairs at his Otahuhu workshop, of which he gave $60,000 to the asset manager without the knowledge of anyone else within the trust.

Narayan received a further $158,000 at his Hamilton garage, with some $30,000 in cash given to the asset manager.

The court heard that Narayan handed over cash to the asset manager on 59 occasions.

Narayan, a Fijian national who purchased the Otahuhu workshop in 2012, also invoiced the trust for fake vehicle repairs.

During his offending, Narayan sent at least three invoices totalling $14,109.

When interviewed by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), he initially denied any wrongdoing, but later confirmed his role and pleaded guilty.

Narayan is also expected to testify at the asset manager's trial in February.

Justice Woolford said Narayan's offending was "deliberate and protracted" and described him as a "willing participant" in the ruse.

Narayan's lawyer Ron Mansfield said his client was "courted and seduced" by the asset manager who "was clearly the instigator".

"[The asset manager], in my submissions, is bad news and has connections which caused [Narayan] to have concern on each occasion," Mansfield said.

The SFO alleges that the asset manager received secret commission payments in return for contracting work to certain suppliers to the trust, including Narayan's businesses.

The asset manager is also alleged to have received the cash kickbacks, and is further alleged to have arranged a secret commission payment during his employment at the trust.

Narayan, who was facing further charges which were dismissed today, was also ordered to make repayments to help compensate for the monetary loss to the trust.



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