New Zealand fugitive deported from Australia faces court
ONE of New Zealand's most wanted fugitives, deported from Australia yesterday, has appeared in court this morning on a raft of charges, alleging fraud, forgery, theft, indecent assaults and drug offences.
Paul Bennett, who has allegedly been on the run from police for more than a decade, appeared from custody at Christchurch District Court this morning.
The 53-year-old is accused of 48 varying offences between June 2007 and February 6, 2015, across New Zealand, including Auckland, Manukau, Whangarei, Paihia, Taupo, Palmerston North, Upper Hutt, Christchurch, Cust, Wanaka, Naseby, and Invercargill.
They include allegations that along with now-estranged wife Simone Wright, he indecently assaulted a 15-year-old girl on two occasions between March 28 and April 1, 2008.
Bennett is also accused of supplying the teenager the class B drug MDMA, or ecstasy.
Many of the charges allege that he used documents dishonestly and without claim of right to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Between January 26 and February 6 last year he is accused of stealing, alongside Wright, a Beau Birdsall 45 cutter yacht worth $145,000 from Paihia.
Bennett was arrested in February last year as he sailed into Sydney Harbour from Northland on board a crippled yacht.
He appeared before a Justice of the Peace this morning wearing a black jersey, sporting a thin grey beard, and clutching envelopes of documents.
Duty lawyer Clare Yardley said she has applied for Legal Aid.
No application for bail was made.
Bennett was remanded in custody without plea to reappear in court on June 9.
Police launched Operation Kite in 2014 to investigate a string of fraud allegations with Bennett a person of interest in a fraud investigation they believe may total more than $1 million.
It relates to selling watches on Trade Me and brokering helicopter deals dating back to 1998.