COOK ISLANDS’ TOURISM OFFICIAL ADMITS FRAUD

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COOK ISLANDS’ TOURISM OFFICIAL ADMITS FRAUD Manager of Auckland office misused $1 million

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 27, 2009) – Former manager of Cook Islands Tourism office in Auckland admitted to four serious fraud charges last week.

Albert Numanga pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court on Friday for defrauding the government of more than $1 million.

The charges relate to actions over a seven-year period from December 1999 amounting to the fraudulent misuse of $1,001,475.50 in public funds.

Numanga has been charged under the NZ Crimes Act 1961 of false accounting (between December 1, 1999 and September 30, 2003 to the value of $57,355.70); false accounting (between October 1, 2003 and December 31, 2007 to the value of $563,656.04), theft by a person required to account (between December 1, 1999 and September 30, 2003 amounting to $271,950.58), and theft by a person in special relationship (between October 1, 2003 and December 31, 2007 of $108,513.18).

A single false accounting charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Numanga resigned from the tourism office in 2007 and first appeared in court last December after an in-depth collaborative investigation between the Cook Islands Audit Office and the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office.

Numanga’s charges stem from alleged offending by direct internet bank account transfers and the wrongly coded and reported cashbook details for cheques deposited into his personal accounts. Numanga spent almost 10 years with the tourism corporation.

A report released by Audit this year found the defendant’s actions to be "fraudulent, deceitful and dishonest.

"It is audit’s opinion that he intentionally destroyed all the accounting records to conceal his wrongdoing," said the report.

It also called for Numanga to be properly disciplined by the appropriate authorities to send a strong message to the public.

Numanga will re-appear in the Auckland District Court on July 30 for sentencing.

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