White Collar Crime

 Justice Rolls Down Like a Mighty Trickle

In our humble opinion, “white collar” crime is seriously under-punished.  We suspect it’s a class thing.  When people like “us” (that is, members of the Chattering Classes or the Commentariat) commit fraud or steal, somehow the spine of the Body Politic turns to jelly.

Auckland City has seen just such a case.  One of the glitterati, Alex Swney stole more than $4m over a long period of time.  In other words, the theft was planned, calculated, and carefully perpetrated.  It was also the work of a narcissist who felt his “employer” was not properly valuing his gargantuan talents, and he deserved more money.  So he was going to get it by hook or by crook, but mainly by crook.

• Swney guilty of “sophisticated” offending over more than a decade
• Gets close to maximum penalty for “gross breach of trust”
• He thought he should have received more credit – and money – for his work

Alex Swney stole more than $4 million because he felt he was being underpaid for his work to improve Auckland, a court has heard.  The 57-year-old former Heart of the City boss was jailed for five years seven months in Auckland District Court this morning after pleading guilty to charges laid by the Inland Revenue and Serious Fraud Office covering “sophisticated” offending over more than a decade. [NZ Herald

Swney stole millions over ten years.  The judge thought he had been a particularly bad boy, and imposed close to the maximum sentence. Now get this.  Swney has been jailed for five and a half years.  But owning to our parole laws, he will serve just under two.  So, he will languish in the prison system for around 24 months but his payoff will be huge–an unearned bonus (which he has already pocketed) of $166,000 per month.  Not bad work if you can get it, and well worth the inconvenience.  There’s a lot of money in “gross breach of trust” apparently. 

All this behaviour, please note dear readers, from a former Auckland mayoral candidate.  If ever he needed to burnish his cv to make him more compelling as the Mayor of Auckland, he has achieved in spades.  Imagine his new stump speech:

Dear and beloved Aucklanders.  I am by far and away the best qualified candidate for the mayoral chains.  As a private citizen I flogged $4m underneath your noses over a four year period, thereby earning a huge payoff for my short time in prison.  Imagine what I can achieve when you vote me into office.  Have you ever had a mayoral candidate more qualified and demonstrably successful at the requisite skill of larceny and fraud, essential to a local body politician? 

One local blogger gravely commented: “That is quite a decent sentence. Good.” No doubt he meant to commend what he saw as a severe sentence upon the miscreant.  Instead, in a reverse Freudian kind of way, his commendation of the judge and the law becomes equivocal.  He ends up commending a wet-bus-ticket sentence for one of his own class.

In New Zealand, we have a “proceeds of crime” law.  Convicted criminals can have their assets seized and sold off to achieve some restitution for their crimes.  But apparently not so much in the case of “white collar criminals”.  They are “nice guys” really.  Like us.  And that’s the way it rolls.

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