A tertiary institute’s attempt to have a judge find one of its employees committed fraud by skimming money earmarked for overseas recruitment trips has been kicked out of court.
Soshi Gakuen runs IPU New Zealand, a university attracting international students to a campus on the outskirts of Palmerston North.
IPU New Zealand took Khiet Thanh Vo to the High Court to try get a caveat put over a property he owned in Palmerston North.
A judgment from Associate Judge Kenneth Johnston given in March stated Vo worked for an organisation run by Soshi Gakuen called International Education Foundation (IEF), but his name and photo features on IPU promotional leaflets from 2018.
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Vo worked for IEF from 2008 until 2018 in a position requiring him to travel abroad to market the group to potential students, the judge said.
How those marketing trips were funded was at the heart of the case, the judge said.
The costs of a trip would be pre-budgeted, with IEF advancing the money to Vo before he left – an arrangement both parties called ‘ringis’.
There were more than 20 ringis between IEF and Vo during his time with the company, but Soshi Gakuen claimed Vo breached his obligations in relation to eight ringis.
It wanted the judge to infer some of the money advanced to Vo was used to help him buy a property soon after he left in 2018.
It also took issue with Vo asking for some ringis to be paid into his father’s bank account rather than his own.
Vo, however, said he did nothing wrong. He was only required to give financial documents after a trip if costs were over or under budget.
That explained why there were eight ringis with no documentation, he said.
The money was paid into his father’s bank account in Vietnam because that was where he was travelling for work, he said.
The judge said no evidence had been provided showing Soshi Gakuen had problems with Vo’s budgeting before the court case – something the judge expected to see if it was a real issue.
Any evidence provided actually favoured Vo, showing the ringis system was the conventional way of taking care of things between Soshi Gakuen and Vo, the judge said.
Vo also managed to provide financial documents showing he had paid for the property by selling one, having money gifted to him from a relative and taking out a mortgage.
“I am far from satisfied [Soshi Gakuen] can establish — even to the point of having a seriously arguable case —fraud,” the judge said.