17 Dec 2015

Businessman admits making 1080-formula threat

7:06 pm on 17 December 2015

A 60-year-old businessman has admitted blackmail charges and threatening to contaminate infant milk.

Signs at Thorndon New World on 1080 infant formula threat, Wednesday 11 March.

Photo: RNZ / Kent Atkinson

The man, who has name suppression, appeared briefly in the High Court in Auckland today.

He threatened to contaminate infant milk formula destined for the Chinese market with 1080.

According to the Crown's charge sheet, the intent of the threat was to make Federated Farmers and Fonterra apply pressure to the New Zealand government to ban the use of 1080.

His lawyer John Billington QC said his client disputed parts of the police summary of facts.

Justice Lang set down a hearing in February, where Mr Billington and Crown lawyers will make submissions before a judge decides exactly what happened.

The man will be sentenced on that basis.

Federated Farmers president William Rolleston said today's plea had revealed the nature of the threat and farmers could now put the saga behind them.

He said he was limited in what he could say before the sentencing and declined to comment about any damage done to the New Zealand brand.

Mr Rolleston said the case had shown New Zealand took food safety seriously. He was also pleased that there had been no widespread panic.

When asked why there was a lag between the threat being made in November and a public announcement about it being made in March, Mr Rolleston said he couldn't comment.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said domestic and international consumers should take confidence in the way the blackmail threat had been handled by the sector and authorities.

Fonterra and the police declined to comment before the sentencing.