PHOTO: Alister Thorby. Arizto Real Estate
A man has been apprehended at an airport while on the brink of embarking on a vacation worth $92,000, accused of deceitfully acquiring slightly over $1.4 million in Government funds during his tenure as head of a Covid response team.
The individual in question, Alister Thorby, was under contract with the Capital and Coast District Health Board (formerly known as Te Whatu Ora Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley) from October 2021 to June 2022, serving as the lead for the Covid-19 response.
Thorby’s responsibilities included organizing staffing for Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ) facilities in the region. However, the prosecution contends that Thorby invoiced the DHB for services valued at around $1.4 million that were never provided.
Operating under his company Moutoa Māori Wardens, trading as AT Consulting and Logistics Ltd, Thorby held the DHB contract. He now faces 12 charges of obtaining funds through deception. The case is progressing through Palmerston North District Court, and Thorby, a former real estate agent with professional experience in both New Zealand and Australia, has been publicly identified following the expiration of an interim name suppression order.
Thorby has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges and is set to make another court appearance later this month.
The prosecution asserts that Thorby misused the allegedly ill-gotten funds to make extravagant purchases, including acquiring a residence in Foxton, multiple vehicles (including a motorhome), and arranging international travel.
According to court documents, Thorby was detained at Auckland Airport in July 2022 as he was preparing to board a flight to Brisbane, the initial segment of a planned month-long overseas journey for him and two companions, costing just over $92,000. Among the services that the prosecution claims Thorby falsely invoiced for were “logistical support,” staffing, and security for MIQ facilities in Central Wellington Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast.
The largest invoice submitted by Thorby’s company to the DHB was for more than $300,000. This invoice purportedly covered the provision of six staff members for 24/7 security over a 30-day period in April 2022, at hourly rates of either $45 or $67.50. The specific location of the security provision was not specified on the invoice.
The court documents outline other alleged invoices, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, for “logistical support” at a hotel-turned-MIQ facility in Wellington and for providing Māori wardens to serve as security at a Supported Isolation Quarantine (SIQ) facility in Kāpiti.
However, the prosecution contends that no work was actually performed by Thorby’s company at the Kāpiti facility. Instead, security duties were handled by a separate and unrelated business. Initially facing charges in Manukau District Court in July of the prior year, Thorby’s case was subsequently transferred to Palmerston North District Court.