Alex Swney should put an ‘i’ in his name

Alex Swney is a piece of work.

He should really put an ‘i’ in the middle of his surname.

Auckland businessman Alex Swney has admitted a new charge, taking his total amount obtained through fraud to more than $4 million.

The 57-year-old former Heart of the City boss appeared in Auckland District Court this afternoon on a new representative charge laid by the Serious Fraud Office today.

Court documents show he dishonestly used false invoices to obtain $2,527,005 from the company between February 2004 and October 2014.

The charge carries a maximum prison term of seven years.

Swney is set to be sentenced on IRD-laid charges next week and a judge previously told him jail was the inevitable outcome.

His lawyer Murray Gibson acknowledged that in court today and asked that his client be sentenced on both matters on the same date.

In January, the former mayoral candidate pleaded guilty to four representative charges covering 12 years of offending and $1,757,147 of unpaid taxes.

He’s a complete ratbag. I hope he gets a good long stretch in jail.

The SFO said Swney’s actions had caused lasting problems for Heart of the City and reflected poorly on the country.

“Mr Swney dishonestly obtained funds to which he knew he was not entitled. The misappropriation of funding intended to benefit Auckland businesses increased the cost of the services provided by Heart of the City and reduced the benefits delivered by what has otherwise been a very successful venture,” SFO director Julie Read said.

“Fraud of this size by employees who are entrusted with the management and expenditure of substantial sums of money is very costly for both the businesses concerned and more broadly for the community as it harms the integrity of these organisations.

“In bringing this prosecution the SFO is helping to protect the reputation of New Zealand as safe place in which to do business and invest.”

Heart of the City welcomed Swney’s admission of guilt and said it marked an important step in restoring the public’s faith in the organisation.

There is clearly some systemic issues in governance at Heart of the City, and Len Brown has got some questions that need answering too.

Alex Swney though will be forever known as a tax dodger and fraudster.


– NZ Herald



THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Quinton Hogg

    I knew and thought I knew Mr Swney through sailing and other things.
    To say that I am disappointed in his conduct over many years is an understatement. I am sure that many of his former crewmates are as well.
    Having said that at least he has admitted guilt promptly and spared us the tedium of a long trial.
    My pick is a net sentence of 6 years plus and this is after deduction of the 25% discount that criminals receive if they plead guilty at the first opportunity.

    • I_See_Crazy_People

      I’d say he pleaded guilty in the hope it will prevent his other offences from being uncovered. Take a look through the companies records, he and his wife have closed and opened several companies over the past year – so he’s ferreted away the money. This very fact should mean he’ll have the book thrown at him, but probably won’t.

      • Quinton Hogg

        Maybe, Maybe not.
        If I looked at my name in the companies office you will see dead companies and live companies.
        And I do agree with you that if his history was raked over closely then you might find more offending. However the crown do run on a tight string and is very pragmatic about offences it pursues these days so the low hanging fruit is first to go, if you get my drift. Going for everything won’t affect the overall sentence.

        • KGB

          Because you have some knowledge of both the law and the man can I ask if we are to see more daylight into his entire families business activities? Or are we again to witness the man in jail while the profits from crime are behind trust walls for spouses to benefit from?

          • Quinton Hogg

            This is where it gets messy.
            Mr Swney’s wife is a successful business woman in her own right.
            In fact she could have been wearing the pants in the relationship which may have lead in part to Mr Swney’s offending as he tried to keep pace with his wife.
            Separating out the contributions of each will be difficult and above my pay scale.

          • Aucky

            If she was wearing the pants in the relationship then there’s another motive for his guilty plea.

  • Aucky

    So he’s going to jail. That will be of some consolation to the Auckland ratepayers and NZ taxpayers whose cash he has quite arrogantly stolen over a lengthy period of time and stashed away to fund his extravagant lifestyle. He’s due for a cumulative maximum sentence of twelve years which we all know he won’t get and no doubt his legal team (legal aid?) will be arguing for HD and community service. Message to the judge from the long suffering public – we want a hard line taken with Swney unless immediate & full reparations are made from the stolen funds that are no doubt now secreted away in complex family trusts.

    • Quinton Hogg

      Doubt it will be Legal Aid.
      His wife has a business in her own right so the family income will mean he can’t get it.
      Anyway the cynic would say that if he was on LA he wouldn’t have pleaded guilty.
      As to sentencing the sentencing act and various court of appeal decisions on sentencing tarifs bind the hand of the sentencing judge both in the district court, or the high court if the district court declines jurisdiction.
      Given the capital and merchant guys got about 6 years (from memory) Similar offending and harm to victims I am reasonably confident that I am right in my prediction.

      • Aucky

        Surely Quinton there is a money trail that can be followed. If he has any moral fibre at all then he should offer to make as full reparations as possible and hope for a jailtime discount in return.

        • Quinton Hogg

          Both the IRD and the Heart of the City are on that trail.
          HOTC have injuncted Mr Swney’s assets as are known and unknown.
          Both will be unravelling things to see what is what.
          There will be a bit of a competition between IRD and HOTC for his assets.
          I would expect that subject to the injunctions Mr Swney will offer some form of reparation. It will add to the discount he receives at sentencing.

  • Sally

    It just amazes me that he could swindle $4 before anyone noticed something was wrong. Did he have complete control of Heart of the City?

    • Aucky

      You would have to beg the question about the efficacy of the auditors.

    • KGB

      He stole $2.5 million the rest was tax evasion. But you are right, how could this happen?
      He wasn’t running the local Bowling Club. Tax-payer funded organisations should be ‘tight ships.’ Was he the sole signature? Were his invoices presented for payment at meetings? Who did HOTC audits? More questions than answers as usual.
      Neither AC or Governments should be funding organisations without checks and balances. Those processes should be audited and revisited annually.

      • Aucky

        I wonder if he’s been told to plead guilty to avoid a lot of embarassing stuff coming out in court implicating other parties. This whole affair just reeks of corruption on a large scale.

  • CJA

    This worries me as to how much more of this is going on at the Council and their controlled organisations. Basic controls being put in place could have stopped something like this. I realise this man was the effective head of the organisation and should have been trusted but if he can do it how many others are doing it as well. They will never recover the money.

    • Quinton Hogg

      These shenanigans worry the heck out of me too.
      This is public money the council and it’s predecessors have been chucking around like confetti. Yet no audit or oversight of the spend. It is like trust me we know what we are doing.
      Yet in the private sector I have to certify to the law society that our trust account is correctly run on a monthly basis and we are subject to random or not so random (depending on the law firm) grillings by the NZLS inspectorate.
      It is my backside on the line financially and professionally so I have to make sure that things are correct.

    • I_See_Crazy_People

      I’ll tell you for nothing that it happens in the IT department.

    • Rod

      We have cause to worry. There are things going on in Auckland Transport as well, not on this scale thankfully. Probably to do with roading work invoiced for but not done. There is already a roading engineer in jail relating to such practices in the old North Shore City Council.

      Edited to provide a link that works

    • phronesis

      The theft from the Otago District Health Board of $17 million by the CIO Swan is still the biggest that I am aware of. A lot of whistles were blown before that was properly investigated. The recent theft from the Dunedin City Council of a million plus dollars by their fleet manager also took years to uncover.

      Remember that Auckland is about 10 times the size of Dunedin / Otago.

    • Platinum Fox

      It seems abundantly clear that HOTC was not an organisation “controlled” by the Council.

      As Quinton notes, the Council and its predecessor doesn’t appear to have instituted any mechanism or requirement for audit or oversight of how money it effectively grants to such organisations is spent. I’d put money, however, that elected officials and council staff attended events/functions put on by HOTC but never even considered the possibility that HOTC wasn’t putting enough into the community to justify the level of funding that it was receiving.

      Hopefully, the Board of HOTC have taken a long look in the mirror and have since had the gumption to implement tighter internal processes to ensure that it can never happen again in their organisation.

      • StreuthCobber

        It’s a strategy of the council to begin increasing the amount of contracts going to Trusts and Community Groups to “reduce risk” by “empowering communities” . While this sounds good, many are used to avoid accountability and hide inappropriate expenditure not related to the core function of council. The Trustees are stacked with political players. No matter wether they outsource to business groups, companies or charitable trusts, the Council needs to be responsible and procurement should robust – with tendered projects with good value, no conflicts of interest, clear deliverables and measured outcomes. It’s not – so expect more of the same.

        • Raibert

          Heard on radio that Auckland council gifts around $40 million to business groups each year and has no robust or comprehensive system for ensuring value is received for this Ratepayers money. If true this situation is ludicrous, heads should most definitely roll.

  • caochladh

    The Judge told him that incarceration was inevitable, so why was he not remanded in custody at his last appearance. Why was he not considered a flight risk.

    • Forrest Ranger

      Good point. Plus while he is out on bail he has a chance to hide more of the money he stole.

      • Quinton Hogg

        See my comments below.
        HOTC has injuncted or frozen his assets known and unknown. he cannot do anything without the approval of the high court.
        Also the court will have his passport and there will be reporting conditions so he won’t be going anywhere.

  • Forrest Ranger

    He should get the full seven years for the first offence and the full seven for the second one to be served consecutively not concurrently. Perhaps with one year off each as a discount for the guilty pleas. So 6 + 6 = 12. I doubt we will see anything like that though.

  • NotGandalf

    Fools and their money, soon parted. The financial losses are insured. A crime of trust for sure and he should be held to account, but I find all the faux outrage a bit rich. Compared to the tragedy of the Livingstone case in Dunedin this is trivial in my opinion.

    • Platinum Fox

      How, pray tell, are the financial losses “insured”?

      HOTC was largely funded by Auckland Council and Auckland City Council before it, if memory serves largely from a special rate applied to business properties in the central city.

      Those ratepayers particularly, Auckland ratepayers in general and the country’s taxpayers will be out of pocket for any shortfall which cannot be recovered from assets accumulated by Mr Swney over the period of his offending. Legal and accounting costs incurred in sorting out how to split the value recovered between HOTC and IRD will never benefit the purposes for which HOTC was originally funded.

  • Sadly he would be the tip of the iceberg – cant tell me there is no rorting going on with the $100 million blowout on the computer system or the upcoming blowout on the transet

  • Win

    Alex Swney was one of four trustees of the Skypath project and resigned as a Trustee only after his name was made public about the same time as his court appearance last October. Council meeting minutes confirm that Swney was heavily involved in promoting Skypath through Heart of the City, but the minutes do not mention that he was a Skypath trustee. Heart of the City personnel were also heavily involved in working on the Skypath project. This project was run for some years from Heart of the City premises. This project has received significant funding from Auckland Council organisations. Have to wonder what else went on at Heart of the City.

  • damm good thrashing

    It must be Len’s fault.