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AT manager given $1.1m in bribes: Crown

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/09/2016

An Auckland Transport contractor gave council staff more than a million dollars in payments and gifts, only to inflate his bills to the council to recoup costs, the Crown says.

Former senior Auckland Transport manager Murray John Noone, 53, faces six corruption charges over taking what prosecutors say was about $1.1 million in bribes between 2006 and 2013.

His co-accused, 52-year-old Stephen Borlase, who owned and ran engineering consulting company Projenz, is accused of bribing Noone and other council staff, and of inflating invoices to the Rodney District Council.

Opening the prosecution's case in the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday, prosecutor Brian Dickey told the court Noone - who managed the council's contracts for its northern road maintenance - had been given payments of $1.1m from Projenz and about $80,000 in gifts, including 11 overseas trips that had nothing to do with work.

He said there was no evidence Noone had done any consultancy for Projenz during the period, despite him being given both monthly and lump sum payments by the company.

"Noone was managing contractors and strategic decisions and approving invoices for contracts," Mr Dickey said, adding the accused's subordinates had signed off on millions of dollars of contracts and invoices from Projenz.

Projenz had then inflated fees to RDC to recoup the costs of the bribes to Noone and other council staff, and in the period of the alleged offending its revenue rose from $4m to $16m, Mr Dickey said.

"The payments ... were treated as costs of doing business with RDC."

Borlase's company had given gifts to other employees at the council's transport division, including travel, accommodation, entertainment and even a dinner at Auckland's swanky French Cafe, he said.

Mr Dickey said it was obvious the company's "strategy" had worked.

But Borlase says there was nothing untoward about the success of his business and it was normal business for companies to foster good relationships with clients through marketing.

Earlier this month, another senior AT manager, Barrie George - who reported directly to Noone - was sentenced to 10 months for taking about $100,000 in bribes, including alcohol, travel and accommodation.

Prosecutors said George went to council management in 2012 with complaints about a culture of gift-giving between council officials and contractors.

Rodney District Council was disestablished in 2010 when it became part of the Auckland super city, with its contracts moving over to Auckland Transport.

The judge-alone trial is set down for six weeks.

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