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SFO called in Forestlands probe

NZN 1/05/2017 Paul McBeth

The Financial Markets Authority has called in the Serious Fraud Office to look at some aspects of its ongoing probe of the Forestlands forestry investment group of companies.

The market watchdog is still investigating financial markets issues, including the group's failure to file financial statements, and has "referred some matters" to the SFO, it said in a statement.

The FMA is tasked with maintaining the integrity of investment markets and it enforces certain securities, reporting and company laws, whereas the SFO investigates serious and complex fraud and financial crime.

The FMA launched its probe when it received a number of complaints by Forestland investors about the group, prompting a planned $18 million distribution to be parked in an interest-bearing trust account until the investigation was completed.

The regulator said each of the 18 Forestlands companies owns specific forests rather than a share of the pooled assets, totalling 1934 hectares of forest land through a group of companies on the east coast of the North Island and in the south-west of the South Island.

It wants to ensure the $18 million is distributed fairly, but that process is up to the director, Rowan Kearns, who lives near Motueka.

"To date, we have not received a satisfactory response from the director to our questions on these matters," the FMA said.

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