15 Jul 2009

Field denies trying to hide real cost of Thai workers

7:21 pm on 15 July 2009

The Crown say Taito Phillip Field concealed accurate payments to Thai workers in an effort to deliberately hide the real cost of the work they performed for him.

The former Labour MP is being cross-examined at his trial in the High Court at Auckland, where he denies 35 charges of bribery, corruption and obstructing justice. The charges relate to claims that he gave immigration assistance in return for work on his properties.

Crown prosecutor David Johnstone said Mr Field hid the real cost of the work carried out by Thai workers so as to conceal the fact that only their materials were being paid for and not their labour.

Mr Field denied this, saying he trusted the Thai workers to tell him the full payment required to meet all their costs.

Mr Field also denied organising a group of about 11 Thai workers to go to Wellington in late 2003 to upgrade one of his rental properties in order to sell it.

In a letter to Mr Field, a real estate agent said the property would be ready to be put on the market after the house had an upgrade.

However, Mr Field said there was absolutely no link between the letter and improvements made to the house by the Thai workers.

Questions on electorate diary

Earlier Mr Field defended how he ran his electorate office and his handling of immigration cases.

Mr Johnstone questioned Mr Field on his clinic book, which recorded electorate appointments. Mr Field said the electorate diary did not necessarily reflect the actual number of people who came to see him for advice, or of those who came to see him especially on immigration cases.

Mr Johnstone also questioned Mr Field on a cheque paid to a Thai couple for work on a south Auckland rental property Mr Field owned.

Mr Johnstone said Mr Field was seeking to conceal the work because any record would indicate that he paid for materials only and not the labour costs.

Mr Field denied this, saying he wrote cheques for the payments workers asked for.

Gifts common in Thai culture, court told

A doctor based in South Auckland told the trial that gifts of money and services were common in the Thai culture and not a sign of bribery.

The Crown took a break from its cross-examination of Mr Field for evidence from Dr John Upsdell, who was only available on Wednesday.

Dr Upsdell spent many years working in Thailand and his South Auckland practice deals with hundreds of people from the Thai community. He told the court there was a clear distinction within their culture between returning a favour out of gratitude and offering a bribe.

Dr Upsdell said gifts of money or services were often given after a favour had been performed, while a bribe, which was also common, was given beforehand.

The cross-examination continues on Thursday.