A New Zealand man who has been embroiled in a long-running case of forex fraud has been sent to prison.
Russell Maher, who ran a firm called Forex Brokers Limited (FBL), was accused by the country’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of 47 charges of using forged documents.
Despite the fact that he operated a foreign exchange brokerage for more than 20 years, Maher also engaged in forgery that created certain impressions for his clients – even as his firm’s financial strength crumbled.
His firm’s services were sought out by importers and car yard businesses in particular.
Overall, he was responsible for taking $1.55m in client cash as a result of the documents.
Now, the Auckland District Court has sentenced him to three years and four months in prison.
He was made bankrupt in 2018, and the firm he ran was liquidated the year before.
In a statement, Julie Read, who serves as the director of the SFO, described Maher’s crimes as “repetitive and premeditated”.
“Mr Maher’s dishonest, repetitive and premeditated offending resulted in significant financial losses to his clients,” she said.
“He abused his position of trust to create the illusion that his business was successful when it was not. Such deceitful behaviour damages New Zealand’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business,” she added.
In a further statement, the SFO shed some more light on what Maher was accused of.
“Russell Maher (53) was sentenced today in the Auckland District Court on 47 representative charges of ‘Using forged documents’ brought by the Serious Fraud Office,” it said.
“The charges relate to Forex Brokers Limited (FBL), through which the defendant provided foreign exchange services.”
It went on to add that Maher was essentially engaged in projecting a positive image of his business despite the underlying concerns about it.
“Mr Maher sought to maintain client confidence in his business by forging documents, which misrepresented the timing of foreign currency transactions he conducted on behalf of his clients,” it said.
“In doing so he concealed the deteriorating financial position of FBL,” it added.
Maher had pleaded guilty to the charges.
The case against him has been in the foreign exchange trading news headlines for years.
Maher set up the company in 1995 and ran it until as recently as 2017.
Although he was the only director, the firm itself was owned by himself and his wife.
During the trial, there was some dispute over the amount of cash taken through the fraud.
The SFO made allegations at one stage that a figure close to $3m was taken.
Maher, however, claimed that the overall figure was under $1m.
In a previous statement, Rajesh Chhana, who served at the time as the acting director of the SFO, suggested that the losses may have been prevented if Maher had acted differently.
“Significant losses to client funds could have been avoided if Mr Maher had behaved honestly and accepted that his business had failed,” he said.
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