An attempt by police to seize some of convicted Northland fraudster Joanne Harrison’s KiwiSaver funds has failed in the Court of Appeal.
Harrison, who was jailed for defrauding the Ministry of Transport of more than $720,000, has lived in Britain since she was deported in 2019.
She also worked in senior management roles at the Far North District Council and Corrections while she was living at Waimate North, 17km southwest of Kerikeri.
For years the council maintained no concerns were raised during her time at the organisation, before admitting in 2020 she resigned after anomalies were discovered in her CV.
The council had also been tipped off to a fraud conviction from her previous job at Tower Insurance.
Police seized her Waimate North property, cash, a car and jewellery under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act.
Later, in 2019, she applied to access her KiwiSaver funds on the grounds of financial hardship.
The money was released but, before it was paid out, police tried to seize it under the Act and the funds were frozen.
When the Police Commissioner first filed an application in the High Court in 2017 for profit and assets forfeiture orders, it included the contents of Harrison’s KiwiSaver account. At that time it amounted to almost $110,000.
This application was declined under section 127 of the KiwiSaver Act, which prevents money being paid out to anyone who is not the account holder.
However, when Harrison successfully applied to withdraw some of the money two years later the Commissioner applied to the High Court for a restraining order on the $23,000.
At that time Harrison still owed $238,000.
The Court of Appeal, however, decided there was no provision under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act for the Commission to put a hold on the funds, and ruled the money was still subject to section 127 of the KiwiSaver Act despite being “cashed in” by the fund manager.
The judges also noted the relationship between the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act and the KiwiSaver Act required urgent attention from Parliament.
A key argument made by police in the appeal was that criminals would simply transfer their funds into KiwiSaver accounts if they knew they could not be seized under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act.