Former senior roading manager at Rodney District Council (RDC), and subsequently Auckland Transport (AT), Murray Noone, is serving a five-year jail term after being sentenced in Auckland’s High Court on February 22.
Mr Noone was found guilty on six charges of bribery and corruption last December, relating to receiving $1.1 million in bribes and a further $84,000 in benefits. In the same case, company director Stephen Borlase was found guilty of eight charges of bribery and corruption – six in relation to Mr Noone and two in relation to former RDC and AT transport manager Barrie George.
Mr Borlase was sentenced to five-and-a-half years jail.
While the Crown submitted that the seriousness of the offending warranted a maximum term of seven years, defence lawyers said that jail terms of no more than three years would be more appropriate given that the exchange of money had only been about “developing a good working relationship”.
However, Judge Sally Fitzgerald said the gifts and gratuities received in this case went well beyond accepted corporate hospitality.
She said the sentences would reflect the harm the offending had done to the community, and she had been strongly influenced by the duration and scale of the offending.
She said these were far from victimless crimes. The offending had a direct and real impact on Auckland Transport and its employees. There had been significant legal and forensic accounting costs, time and stress on employees, and the case had had a very negative effect on employee morale.
Justice Fitzgerald also referred to the wider impact on the community and said it would tarnish New Zealand’s reputation as a place where public corruption was almost non-existent. The offending had seriously undermined the public’s trust in public officials and she noted that this sort of activity has a tendency to promote corruption.
She said while Mr Noone had shown some remorse for his actions, Mr Borlase had shown none.
Mr Noone appeared in court on crutches. His lawyer requested that any prison sentence be deferred for at least two weeks to allow him to access the medical treatment he was currently receiving.
However, Justice Fitzgerald said the Department of Corrections would be able to provide Mr Noone with the medical care he needed and denied the request.
Mr George pleaded guilty to bribery charges last year and was given a 10-month home detention sentence.
Serious Fraud Office director, Julie Read said collusion between staff and suppliers prevented other suppliers from having a fair chance of doing business.
“Improper hospitality and bribes such as this case can seem like part of business as usual and difficult to uncover, but we suggest that every employee is responsible for identifying any red flags.”
Judge Fitzgerald’s decision and her reasons for sentencing: