Judge Sally Fitzgerald delivered her verdict in the serious fraud case at Auckland High Court last Friday, December 9.
Projenz director Stephen Borlase was found guilty of bribery and also of providing $125,000 in benefits and gratuities to former RDC and AT transport manager Barrie George. Mr George pleaded guilty to bribery charges in August and is serving a 10-month home detention sentence.
However, Mr Borlase was found not guilty of inflating invoices to RDC.
Both men have been remanded on bail for sentencing on February 22.
During the marathon seven-week trial, the Crown claimed Mr Borlase paid Mr Noone $1.1 million in bribes between 2006 and 2013, which were disguised as payments for consultancy work.
Judge Fitzgerald said she was convinced that Mr Noone didn’t provided any consultancy services to roading contractor Projenz over the period and the money was to buy influence. The payments occurred every month for seven years, ranging from $8000 to $10,000.
“I find it implausible that there would be no documentary record of it [the work],” Justice Fitzgerald said.
In addition, Projenz made two lump-sum payments to Mr Noone of $200,000 in 2010 and $40,000 in 2012.
She said no witnesses could provide first-hand evidence that Mr Noone carried out any work and very few people were aware that he was working for Projenz.
“Mr Noone failed to disclose to employers the arrangement with Projenz, despite having numerous opportunities to do so.
“I believe Mr Noone and Mr Borlase understood this was wrong.
“I am also satisfied he [Mr Noone] knew when receiving the benefits that it was in connection with his roles at RDC and AT.”
Over the period, Projenz profits soared from $36,000 in 2006 to over $8 million in 2012.
During the trial, the Crown claimed there was a widespread culture of corruption at AT and RDC, and many other staff members received significant gifts and benefits.
Justice Fitzgerald said her decision and observations did not apply to AT and RDC as a whole, or their employees.
She said there was insufficient evidence to find Mr Borlase guilty of four charges relating to inflating invoices to RDC, which the Crown argued were to recoup the costs of bribes. This was because the offending occurred between 2006 and 2009, and the documentary evidence was now incomplete. However, she said if the charges were brought in a civil case, with a lower burden of proof, the outcome might have been different.
When deciding to remand the pair on bail, she said it should “in no way be taken as an indication of the outcome of sentencing”.