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Strategic Finance liquidator has found nothing to take to the SFO 'at this point in time'

Strategic Finance liquidator has found nothing to take to the SFO 'at this point in time'

By Gareth Vaughan

The liquidator of failed property development financier Strategic Finance says although he's putting a few transactions under the spotlight, nothing found so far is likely to be reported to the Serious Fraud Office.

Andrew McKay, Corporate Finance director and Strategic liquidator, told the liquidators were  investigating "a few" Strategic transactions dating from within 24 months before their appointment on July 26 last year. These were the same transactions the receiver, which is helping with the Securities Commission's investigation into Strategic, has raised potential concerns about, McKay said.

His comments come as Corporate Finance releases its second liquidator's report. (And see the first liquidator's report here.)

McKay said the Strategic transactions being looked at date from within 24 months of  the liquidator's appointment because they are the ones that are "potentially voidable" under the Companies Act.

"So they’re the ones that we can investigate," McKay said, adding the liquidator would investigate "some" of the "few" transactions that it believes require investigation.

It would probably be "six months or so" before Corporate Finance decides whether to take any action or not.

The Securities Commission is investigating all the dozens of finance companies to have failed in the past four to five years. And Serious Fraud Office CEO Adam Feeley told last month the SFO, which has opened investigations into several finance companies in recent months including Hanover Finance, Mutual Finance and Rockforte Finance, was in "ongoing discussions" with the Securities Commission.

"I think it'd be fair to say that in the next few weeks we will have a clearer view on whether that's a matter we take forward or not or whether it's something the Commission takes forward or not. But at the moment it's not an investigation and whether it becomes an investigation, at the moment we don't want to get drawn on that," Feeley said then.

Today McKay said the liquidators had not turned up anything "that we’d be rushing off to them (the SFO) at this point in time."

"We're working with the receiver, trying not to duplicate between us," McKay added. "Otherwise we’re just wasting money and neither of us are in to that."

"We’re in the collation and collection phase of documents and then we’ll move to an analysis phase in conjunction with our legal team," McKay added.

According to its website, the Securities Commission's investigation into Strategic began in August 2008 and is continuing.

Strategic was tipped into receivership by its trustee Perpetual Trust last March. Receivers John Fisk and Colin McCloy of PricewaterhouseCoopers say the about 10,000 secured debentureholders are likely to get back between 12% and 35%, or between NZ$44.1 million and NZ$128.7 million, of the NZ$367.8 million principal investment owed to them. They've so far got back just 2 cents in the dollar.

Debentureholders, including the Bank of Scotland which is owed NZ$76.1 million, are Strategic's secured creditors. Unsecured Strategic creditors, including unsecured depositors' owed NZ$1.45 million and subordinated noteholders owed NZ$21.7 million, are unlikely to get back any money at all.

Strategic, whose CEO was Kerry Finnigan and which counted former All Blacks captain and ex-New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs among its directors, froze repayments to investors' in August 2008 blaming tough conditions in the property market. Investors' then voted for a moratorium in December 2008 that aimed to repay them 100% of their principal investments plus interest through asset realisations over five years.

Perpetual Trust subsequently called in the receivers after Strategic failed to generate sufficient loan recoveries for a repayment to investors' that had been due in January last year, and failed to sway the trustee with suggested alternatives to receivership.

Finnigan told last year that he didn't expect himself, or the rest of the company’s leadership, to face any charges stemming from investigations into Strategic's demise.

“We don’t think we’ve done anything wrong,” Finnigan said then.

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