Maybe I was just a naive kid, but it seems to me that once upon a time you could tell the goodies from the baddies. I like to think I still can, but it is definitely a tougher job these days, especially when it comes to those we don’t have a personal relationship with.
I can recall the time when we accepted a lot of things at face value. For example most people believed policemen were honest upholders of the law rather than cynical pursuers of ‘clear-up figures’. Lawyers, priests and, yes, even to a certain extent, politicians were generally thought to have the best interests of those they were paid to work for at heart.
To say that we have now discovered these people have feet of clay would be a gross understatement. They are up to their knees in brown stuff alright; but it ain’t clay.
I just began ticking off a list of disgraced persons the other day and it really started to make me a bit paranoid (who said that?). It reinforces the unfortunate fact that you can’t trust any bugger these days and the consequence of that is much more serious than any ‘loss of innocence’ on the part of the wider public. It will ultimately make it harder for genuine people to be heard.
The agonising thing is that most of these people actually did do some good for a while or were good people for a while or in certain settings. One is left wondering whether they were actually always heading towards the dark side or simply encountered circumstances in their life that made it easier for them to change than to remain honest.
The money sharks
One category that shouldn’t surprise us is the finance sector. We have always known that money men are part of a secret society that seems to operate according to its own rules and to the benefit of nobody other than its own membership. Banks have always operated on a basis of usury under the guise of ‘lending’, but even they have become more rabid of late and you have to blame the advent of fractional banking for this. It came into being well over a hundred years ago, but in the beginning it was only a fraction (pun intended) of what it is now. Banks were required to back up most of their funds with reserves of gold, but over the years the requirement has been loosened to the point where most could not afford to pay out even 10 percent of their creditors if they had to.
This means they are trading most of the time with ‘funny money’ that actually isn’t worth even the cheap paper it is printed on. Furthermore the same sort of jiggery pokery has been going on in the finance companies only they are not as universally supported by governments, so they have been crashing and burning all their investors. The only survivors from these smoking ruins have been the directors who usually caused the car wrecks that once held the hopes and dreams of those trying to save for their retirement.
Most of the culprits from these disasters have been the usual sorts of vermin that have scuttled out from the skirting boards of finance houses for years, however lately there have been a few who probably seemed okay to large sectors of the public before these fiascos.
One such person would have to be Sir Douglas Arthur Montrose Graham, former Attorney-General, Minister for Courts, Minister of Justice, Minister for Disarmament & Arms Control, Minister of Cultural Affairs and Minister in charge of Treaty Negotiations. Doug Graham has a pedigree that should make him one of the relatively good guys, although I won’t tell you what my wife always said he looked like unless one of his rich mates (does he have any other kind?) decides to sue me. He was a National Party MP for from 1984 to 1999, his great grandfather was an Independent MP from 1855 to 1868 and his brother Kennedy Graham has been a Green Party MP since 2008.
However Dougie has been convicted along with another former Justice Minister Bill Jeffries of breaching the Securities Act in regard to the failure of Lombard Finance of which they were both directors. At this stage I should declare a (hostile) interest. I once hired Bill Jeffries when he was practicing as a lawyer and he was bloody useless. But I digress...
So Sir Dug (a hole for himself) who for about 15 years had the support of many thousands of New Zealanders turns out to be just as dodgy as the rest of those finance guys.
Another who put himself about as a goodie was Allan Hubbard, that affable old duffer who seems to have hoodwinked thousands of investors in his South Canterbury Finance Company into thinking he was a financial whizz-geriatric who upheld all the old fashioned values of honesty and integrity. The reality turns out that he was about as on to it as the old grocer we all used to go to with a pencil behind his ear to add up your purchases in the days before electronic tills. As for his honesty and integrity; all I can say is that we will never really know because proceedings against him by the Serious Fraud Office have never been completed due to him being killed in a car crash a few months back. The fact that others associated with the companies are facing charges probably indicates this was no idle witch-hunt by the SFO.
Our esteemed sports stars seem to be just as likely to turn up in some messy situations of their own making, too. We have had allegations of match fixing and New Zealand cricket stars mentioned in connection with this. I can only assume these allegations do not involve Black Caps games because frankly there is no need to get them to deliberately lose matches; they can do that quite easily without any incentives.
But one sportsman who has turned up and been linked to dodgy financial stuff is sadly the late Jock Hobbs. Jock always seemed like a good honest bloke and he had a lot of mana through his roles as a core member of the Canterbury NPC team during the mid 80s and as an All Black who played 39 matches for the team and captained them on a tour of Fiji. After he had to give up the game following one knock too many on his scone, he got into the administration side of the game and chaired the NZRFU through some turbulent times. He has been credited with swinging hosting rights for NZ for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. I don’t know how I missed this, but blame it on me being distracted by said RWC; but Jock was investigated last year in connection with the failure of Strategic Finance of which he was a director. Strategic Finance went into receivership in 2010 owing $368M to 10,000 investors and the Financial Markets Authority launched an investigation into whether Hobbs and others had committed a breach of the Securities Act. They dropped their investigation against Hobbs in June last year when they discovered how advanced his cancer was. However the matter is not closed and others still might be prosecuted.
This is just the tip of an enormous ice-berg which is threatening to destroy our faith in bloody nearly everyone. In the last couple of months we have heard about Martin Elliott, former principal of Fraser High School in Hamilton who was charged with diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars of Ministry of Education funding towards building projects on personal homes of his. He cut a deal with the prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a pair of representative charges in return for having most charges dropped.
We have just heard of a Corrections Department Officer, Chanel Scanlan who took bribes of cash, drugs, booze and firewood (?) to fudge records and let offenders off their community work obligations. As if most of the sentences weren’t weak enough to begin with!
We have had countless cops convicted of everything from theft to rape and countless priests and care-givers convicted of abusing their position of trust by sexually assaulting and robbing those who needed their professional help most and I haven’t even started on MPs who steal the identity of others or use their headed notepaper to push the cause of people they might have had an inappropriate relationship with.
Whew! I think we should make all the good guys wear white hats so we can tell the difference more easily. Mind you I don’t think we need to put in a very big order for those chapeaux.