Three facing charges over $1m bribery that was “part of the working environment”

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Three people – who were formerly employees of Auckland Transport, Rodney District Council and a supplier to both organisations – are facing charges over bribery allegations worth more than $1 million, with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) finding that they had manipulated their workplace culture to enable the corruption.

Stephen James Borlase, Barrie Kenneth James George, and one other person who remains anonymous appeared in North Shore District Court on Tuesday facing charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), The New Zealand Herald reported.

The charges were reportedly over the corruption and bribery of an official.

While employed in various engineering and management roles across AT and RDC, George and an associate allegedly received undisclosed payments or gratuities from Borlase, who was the director of Projenz, a supplier to both organisations.

According to the SFO, these gratuities came in the form of cash, travel, accommodation and entertainment, and were given to George and his associate between 2005 and 2013.

The SFO also alleged that a culture was created within the road maintenance division in which “the acceptance of gratuities was part and parcel of the working environment”.

“The SFO is committed to preventing corruption from taking root through investigating and prosecuting offending in the public or private sector,” said SFO director Julie Read. “This is an important aspect of protecting New Zealand's reputation as a safe place to invest and do business and to allow our economy to prosper.”

In a statement made after his court appearance, Borlase – who faces eight bribery charges and four charges of false pretences – claimed that he knows he “has done know wrong” and will be pleading not guilty to all of the charges.

“Not only do I deny the claims, I am completely confident that no inappropriate or unlawful payment has been made by my company,” he said.

Borlase added that he had instructed his lawyer not to apply for name suppression as he “considers that [he has] nothing to hide or be ashamed of”.

Pending the case’s outcome, Borlase has stepped down from the running of Projenz in order to protect its reputation, The Herald reported.

All of the charges are punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail if proven.

The three defendants were remanded on bail until May 18.

Related articles:

Corruption in NZ companies on the rise, report finds

Preventing corruption: Tips for HR best practice

Three company culture challenges – and how to combat them

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