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Fraudster's non-parole period 'crushing' – lawyer

Wednesday 11 Jun 2014 10:42 a.m.

David Ross (file)

David Ross (file)

The man behind New Zealand's biggest Ponzi scheme is trying to appeal his non-parole jail period, saying lowering it isn't a "get out of jail free" card.

David Ross' lawyer Gary Turkington appeared in the Wellington High Court this morning to challenge the five-year, five-month minimum non-parole sentence handed down last year. He was sentenced by Judge Denys Barry to 10 years and 10 months prison in total.

Ross, director of Ross Asset Management (RAM), admitted running a decade-long scheme which left around 700 investors $115 million out of pocket. He pleaded guilty to eight charges, including false accounting and theft by a person in a special relationship. The charges were laid following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Financial Markets Authority (FMA).

Mr Turkington argued the non-parole period handed down was "just too much" and "crushing", and should be lowered to four years.

"This is not a get out of jail free card, it is simply lowering the threshold of eligibility," he says.

Even when Ross reached the lowered threshold, there was no guarantee he would be granted parole. Ross was in his "twilight years" and would be 68 when eligible for parole under the current sentence, he says.

The Crown prosecutor reminded the court of the fraud's "unprecedented scale", and Mr Turkington's claim Ross' personal circumstances weren't adequately considered should be outweighed by the seriousness of the offending.

He said many of the victims were also in their twilight years and would find it difficult to recoup their money.

Large portions of Ross' client portfolios, which were shown as invested through broker Bevis Marks, were fictitious and never existed. This resulted in an overstatement of investment positions by more than $380 million. The scam began to unravel in 2012, when investors started complaining they were experiencing difficulty or unable to withdraw their funds from RAM.

The FMA then applied to the High Court to bring in the receivers.

Investors spokesman Bruce Tichbon says the victims are afraid the sentence will be reduced, and believe the original sentence wasn't harsh enough.

The justices reserved their decision, which will be delivered in a written decision.

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