Hamilton man who fled with millions ordered to pay it back

  • Jun 12, 2019
  • Waikato Times

A Hamilton man who fled the country with millions of his employer's money has been ordered to pay it back.

Richard Whitham was working for finance company WorldClear when he allegedly misappropriated company funds, according to a written decision of a case held recently at the Hamilton High Court.

In May 2018, Whitham blocked access to the company's accounts - totalling more than $4.5million - and fled to Singapore.

There was "substantial support" for claims he transferred the money to his personal bank accounts and his accounts were frozen, the decision said.

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WorldClear was set up in 2014 by Hamilton man David Hillary to provide account, foreign exchange and payment services.

In August 2017, Hillary and Whitham formed T1, a firm set up to open bank accounts and conduct financial transactions on behalf of WorldClear, of which Whitham would initially be sole director and shareholder.

By May 17, 2018, there was $4,611,535 in accounts operated by T1 when Whitham said he had to leave work early to attend to a domestic matter and did not expect to be back the following day.

The day after, Hillary realised his staff were unable to access T1 accounts at the ANZ, BNZ, and ASB banks, and he raised that by text with Whitham.

Whitham sent a text message back saying he would check his own access to the accounts when he got back from the doctor.

There were two further text messages from Hillary to Whitham that morning, where Hillary said "we need to talk", and "what is happening?"

"We then called ANZ and asked to access the transaction information, and were informed that [Whitham] had ordered the transfer of almost all of the available funds to his personal account in ASB, " Hillary said in his evidence.

In the recent judgement, Justice Paul Davison said a total $4,541,585 was being claimed by WordClear.

Approximately $1,853,933 has already been recovered. The outstanding total was $2,687,652.

"The evidence establishes that [Whitham] knowingly and deliberately misappropriated funds belonging to the plaintif[f].

"[Whitham] is ordered to pay the plaintiff interest on the judgment debt of NZ $2,687,652.00."

Whitham was declared bankrupt last month, and his companies, T1 Holdings and Retail Guru, have been placed into liquidation.

He did not appear in court and it is understood he is on bail in Singapore.


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