SFO investigation: Prominent Te Arawa leader appears in court over alleged $364k fraud

A prominent business leader has been charged by the Serious Fraud Office and accused of obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars through deception from an Iwi trust.

Roger Haare Charles Pikia appeared today in the Auckland District Court before Judge Pippa Sinclair.

It is alleged between February 2014 and December 2015 he obtained property in the sum of $364,500 from Te Arawa River Iwi Trust by the provision of timesheets falsely representing his engagement in residual settlement negotiations.

The maximum penalty of the offence is seven years’ imprisonment.

The trust acts to represent three iwi that fall within the Upper Waikato river catchment area.

Another charge alleges that, in May 2016 he willfully tried to obstruct or defeat the course of justice by altering minutes of a Tarit Holdings Limited board meeting which occurred on January 22 2016.

Similarly, the maximum penalty of the offence is seven years’ imprisonment.

He faces three other charges.

Judge Pippa Sinclair remanded him on bail to appear again in late February, when he is expected to enter pleas in court.

Pikia said outside court that it was nearly four years ago to the day that he first became aware of the SFO investigation.

He said he was disappointed charges had been laid but felt he will finally have a chance to address the accusations.

“I strenuously deny these allegations and unequivocally state, that we will be vigorously defending the charges,” Pikia said.

“The restrictions imposed during the SFO investigation have made it impossible to speak openly and frankly about the accusations.

“This is not normal practice within an iwi setting, generally speaking nothing is off limits for discussion by the iwi.”

They had assembled “a highly capable legal team” who will “turn over every rock” to defend these charges to clear his name and if necessary, go further “to bring justice to our treaty settlement”, he said.

Pikia said he had been advised that it was not likely that any trial to determine these charges would occur until 2022.

“In the meantime I will be working with my lawyers to ensure that they are vigorously defended.”

He wanted to thank his supporters, including his family, friends and iwi, he said.

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