A prominent business leader has been convicted of fraud, following the failure of his high profile business venture.
Foreign national Joseph Ratzinger, who also goes by the aliases Pope Benedict XVI and the Bishop of Rome, was convicted and sentenced today in the Auckland High Court to two years’ imprisonment for his part in a scheme that defrauded investors.
Ratzinger’s business, known by the name The Church, promised investors spiritual wealth and salvation through the blessed holy sacraments of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
But most investors ended up losing everything they put into the venture.
The fraud was uncovered after authorities discovered that the claims made by Ratzinger in disclosure documents to investors were false.
Serious Fraud Office Assistant Director Neville McFarlane said that the investigation had been ongoing, and that the successful prosecution had brought an end to several hundred years of work.
“We are delighted that the court has treated this matter with the seriousness it deserves,” said Mr McFarlane.<
“We have been concerned for some time about the activities of the Roman Catholic Church. It became clear to us during our investigations that Mr Ratzinger was running what can only be described as a get-rich-quick scheme.
"This guy was offering salvation and forgiveness from sin. He was promising eternal life, but only if you followed his programme.
"That programme required attendances at weekly seminars where Ratzinger's motivational speakers would tell investors they had to stick to the plan.
"The idea was to ensure that once someone invested, they couldn't get out."
The Serious Fraud Office began investigating The Church after Ratzinger claimed in investment documents that the path to eternal happiness lay in following the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.
"We always tell investors that if the returns sound too good to be true, they probably are," said Mr McFarlane.
Investors in the failed venture remain angry that regulators took so long to move against Mr Ratzinger.
Barbara Drew, 72, retired, said that she had lost everything to the Church.
“I wasted every waking moment following the programme. They told me I would reap the eternal rewards once I died. But something started to smell fishy when they tried to tell me that the people abusing children were simply misguided.
"And when they claimed that their failure to speak up against the worst outrages of the 20th century was not a sign of moral cowardice, but an important step in preserving the institution of the Church for the future, I knew I’d been duped.”
But Mr Ratzinger was yesterday defiant and unrepentant. Outside the steps of the Auckland District Court before being sentenced, Mr Ratzinger claimed he had been the victim of a kangaroo court, and that the only power that could judge him was God.
“I am infallible,” said Mr Ratzinger.