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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Aviator guilty of fraud

Eugene John DeMarco. PHOTO/FILE

After three weeks, the man at the centre of the fraud trial relating to Sir Peter Jackson’s company, The Vintage Aviator Ltd, has been found guilty on all counts.

Former manager Eugene John DeMarco, 57, was convicted on two charges of obtaining by deception and four of theft by a person in a special relationship at the High Court at Wellington on Friday morning.

The forewoman read out the unanimous verdict as the other 11 members of the jury, of six men and six women, nodded in agreement.

Justice Karen Clark thanked the jury for their service.

“This trial was important obviously to the defendant, but also there was an important public interest.”

The charges related to the sale of two vintage aircraft sold by TVAL with the proceeds going through DeMarco’s company, The Old Stick and Rudder.

Crown prosecutor Sally Carter told the court DeMarco sold two of TVAL’s vintage planes, a BE2 and a Sopwith Pup, to the New Zealand Warbirds Association at inflated costs to cover financial difficulties.

This included debts amounting to $1 million used to purchase two other vintage aircraft.

In 2011, Sir Peter agreed to buy a hangar owned by the trust and lent DeMarco more than $600,000 through the Film Property Trust as a short-term loan.

By early 2016, this had still not been repaid, and the interest had accrued so that more than $1m was owed.

Two charges also related to a loan he secured from the Bank of New Zealand, using a P40 Kittyhawk plane with an estimated value of more than $1.5m [USD], as security without permission from a shareholder.

As well as the criminal charges, two civil cases have also been filed against DeMarco in relation to money owed and who has rights over the vintage aircraft.

Julie Read, director of the Serious Fraud Office who investigated the offending, said it was premediated and driven by self-interest.

“DeMarco defrauded his employer, a charitable organisation, a friend and a bank,” she said.

“The prosecution of such matters is an important aspect of protecting New Zealand’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business.”

DeMarco was remanded on bail but subject to several conditions.

He is next expected to appear for sentencing late next month.

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