Alistair Hutchison, one of three men charged by the Serious Fraud Office over the collapse of New Zealand insurance company CBL, has died.
Hutchison, 83, was charged by the SFO in February with a single count of obtaining by deception. He had pleaded not guilty and was due to face trial in June.
His lawyer, John Billington QC, confirmed his client died on Wednesday.
Billington said he was disappointed interim name suppression – obtained on the basis that publicity about the case was adversely affecting his clients’ health – was discontinued in October.
“It seems to have been a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said, before adding: “On the other hand he was 83.”
Billington said he remembered Hutchison as a “really lovely man” and his loss would be most keenly felt by the Samoan community in Auckland and Samoa.
Hutchison’s niece, New York-based artist Taisha Hutchison, said her uncle was a “deeply philosophical, humble and kind man” who had grown up in a modest home in Wellington before later marrying a Samoan chief.
She said he had helped established Western Union in Samoa and through the Pacific.
Hutchison had studied at Victoria University and worked with the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development. He was also a former director of CBL.
The SFO, supported by the Financial Markets Authority, had sought immunity from prosecution for Hutchison but this application was declined by the Solicitor-General.
The charge relates to alleged obscurement of a €12.5 million ($20.7m) loan from CBL to now-liquidated Danish company Alpha Insurance in 2014.
The SFO alleges a series of transactions were engineered to make it appear the lender was Federal Pacific Group – a company founded owned and directed by Hutchison.
The SFO alleges the €12.5m was deposited with the National Bank of Samoa – which Hutchison was also a director of – which then transferred the money to Federal Pacific before it was advanced to Alpha.
He was the third person appearing in court over the failure of the NZX-listed CBL, after the company’s former executives Peter Harris and Carden Mulholland were charged with multiple offences – including over the Alpha-Federal Pacific transaction – in December 2019. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Complications of Covid lockdowns during the past two years have seen the separate trial, of Harris and Mulholland, expected to run for eight weeks, delayed until 2023.
CBL had a market capitalisation of $747m at the time of its collapse in early 2018. The year earlier Harris, its chief executive, had been named EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
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