Open main menu

Serious Fraud Office (New Zealand)

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO; Māori: Te Tari Hara Tāware) is the public service department of New Zealand charged with detecting, investigating and prosecuting financial crimes, including corruption, of a serious and complex nature.

Serious Fraud Office
Te Tari Hara Taware
Agency overview
JurisdictionNew Zealand
HeadquartersLevel 6,
21 Queen St,
Annual budgetVote Serious Fraud
Total budget for 2019/20
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Julie Read,
    Chief Executive and Director

The SFO is New Zealand's lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious financial crime, including bribery and corruption. The Auckland-based agency has about 50 employees of which 90 percent perform front-line activities. It has statutory independence as operational decisions are made without ministerial direction. The agency is based upon its UK counterpart as established by the Serious Fraud Office Act 1990.[2] The SFO was established as a response to the collapse of the capital markets following the stock market crash in 1987.

Suspects questioned by the SFO have no right to silence and must answer questions and produce requested evidence, even if it incriminates them. However, evidence at an interview cannot be used against a suspect at his or her trial, unless he or she gives evidence which contradicts their SFO interview. Witnesses can also be required to answer questions under compulsion. Such interviews enable people with confidentiality agreements with clients to speak freely to the SFO without fear of retribution from their clients. These provisions do not override legal professional privilege.[3] Anyone who refuses to comply can be prosecuted and could be fined or jailed. Prosecutions are extremely rare and no one has been jailed for this offence.[4]

SFO DirectorsEdit

  • Charles Sturt 1990-1997
  • David Bradshaw 1997-2007
  • Grant Liddell 2007-2009
  • Adam Feeley 2009-2012
  • Julie Read 2013-present

SFO casesEdit

  • Equiticorp - Founding director Allan Hawkins [5] sentenced to six years' imprisonment in 1992
  • Fortex - CEO Graeme Thompson and CFO Michael Mullen sentenced to imprisonment in 1994
  • ACC - Former Auditor-General and ACC boss, Jeff Chapman, convicted of fraudulently using documents in 1997
  • Otago DHB - CIO Michael Swann convicted of defrauding the DHB of nearly $17m and sentenced to nine years, six months' imprisonment in 2009
  • Ross Asset Management - David Ross sentenced to 10 years, 10 months' imprisonment in 2013
  • South Canterbury Finance - Director and lawyer Edward Sullivan sentenced to home detention and community work in 2014
  • Kang Huang and Others - Kang Huang sentenced to four years, seven months' imprisonment in 2018 for his part in a $54 million mortgage fraud

Proposal to replace the SFOEdit

The Labour government announced in September 2007 that the SFO would be replaced by a new Organised Crime Agency.[6]

However, the bill to disband the SFO was delayed by the 2008 general election, and the new Prime Minister John Key informed Parliament that the SFO would not be disbanded.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Total Appropriations for Each Vote". Budget 2019. The Treasury.
  2. ^ "Serious Fraud Office Act 1990". New Zealand Legislation. Parliamentary Counsel Office.
  3. ^ SFO Act s.27
  4. ^ SFO Act s.45
  5. ^
  6. ^ Newstalk ZB (2007-09-11). "SFO to be scrapped in favour of new Organised Crime Agency". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
  7. ^ NZPA (2008-12-10). "Serious Fraud Office saved from axe". Farifax. Retrieved 2010-10-21.

External linksEdit