Police spokesperson Jon Neilson has told The Wellingtonian (24 March) that police would investigate complaints from the public about scams, including those targeting potential donors to Christchurch earthquake appeals, if there was sufficient evidence. The Chief executive of the New Zealand Red Cross, John Ware, has been quoted as having evidence that “scammers are trying to take advantage of the public’s generosity at this devastating time”, using online scams and setting up insecure websites that illegally seek to harvest details of potential donors’ credit card and bank accounts and other personal information.
But is it legitimate for any registered charity to lodge formal complaints with enforcement agencies such as the police when evidence comes to light of possible criminal activities? How can such complaints be justified within the humanitarian, philanthropic, public service objectives of a registered charity such as NZ Red Cross or The Salvation Army for example?
Of course it is legitimate and fully justified for any charity to lodge formal complaints when evidence of scams, lack of legal compliance, money-laundering, or any criminal activity comes to light in the course of its own activities. In fact charities have a social responsibility to do so because such scams are “injurious to the public good”. The financial cost of white collar crime alone in New Zealand has been estimated to be about one billion dollars per year, according to the latest KPMG fraud barometer survey.
It is the duty of all NZ citizens to report evidence of non-compliance with the law if there is sufficient evidence that it has occurred.
It is noteworthy that recipients of scam low-ball share offers by a banned company director and convicted burglar, Mr Bernard Terence Whimp, have led to many investors to complain to the Securities Commission over the limited partnerships he controls that fronted the dodgy offers.
Complainants have not necesarily been able to prove the illegal nature of Mr Whimp’s activities – and of course they are not required to do so – but their complaints have highlighted what the Commission considers to be “misleading” share offers and a High Court action has led to these transactions being put on hold, pending a Court ruling.
Likewise, fraudulent charities pitching for donations from good-hearted generous New Zealanders, may also soon face Court action. But this will not happen unless complainants step forward and do the right thing – notify the authorities of fraud…. an action they have in effect been encouraged to do by comments recently made by: Charities Commission chief executive Trevor Garrett, Chief Executive of The New Zealand Red Cross, John Ware and Police spokesperson Jon Neilson.
Donate with Caution by Rebecca Thomson. The Wellingtonian 24 March, 2001, p. 1)