11 Nov 2009

Office denies ignoring Cedenco owner inquiry

11:25 am on 11 November 2009

The Manager of the Overseas Investment Office says the agency took appropriate action over the investigation into the United States company that owns Cedenco Foods, which went into receivership this week.

The US-based Salyer family was the ultimate owner of Cedenco Foods and another failed US-based company SK Foods.

Eight former executives and employees of SK Foods have been charged with offences including bribery, price fixing and falsifying labels on out of date stock.

The Overseas Investment Office has admitted knowing about the US investigation for more than a year and has been accused by the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa of turning a blind eye.

However the Manager of the Overseas Investment Office, Annelies McClure says at first it believed the allegations involved only low-level employees.

She told Morning Report the office is waiting to see the outcome of the US investigation before deciding the next step.

"We could take a range of actions under our legislation. One of them may be to apply to the High Court to have Cedenco sold."

However Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa spokesperson Murray Horton says the office should have known senior staff were involved from looking at media coverage.

Cedenco Foods employs 88 full-time staff in New Zealand and a peak of about 400 seasonal workers. It has vegetable and fruit processing factories in Gisborne and Hastings, and also operates in the Australian state of Victoria.

The company is continuing to operate in after being placed in receivership by the ANZ National bank, which has indicated it is prepared to keep the business going until a buyer is found.