3 Aug 2016

Sir Ngatata Love accused of corruption

3:29 pm on 3 August 2016

A prominent Māori leader corruptly sold his influence as chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust, a court has been told.

Ngatata Love has has his name suppression lifted.

Sir Ngatata Love at the High Court in Wellington today. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Sir Ngatata Love, 78, has gone on trial in the High Court in Wellington, charged with fraudulently receiving $1.8 million through an arrangement for development of land at Pipitea Street in central Wellington.

An alternative charge of corruptly obtaining that sum for himself or someone else as an inducement or reward for having shown favour to certain businesses is also before the court.

Sir Ngatata was accompanied to court by a large number of whānau and friends and entered not guilty pleas at the start of the hearing.

Crown Prosecutor Grant Burston told the court Sir Ngatata, who was chairman and a Trustee of the Wellington Tenths Trust, favoured the Equinox/Redwood consortium to develop a block of land owned by the organisation in Pipitea Street in Wellington.

In return Sir Ngatata and his partner Lorraine Skiffington were paid $1.5 million under a "Services Agreement" entered into between the developers and a company associated with Ms Skiffington.

About $1.4 million was used to pay down a mortgage on a home owned by Dr Love and Ms Skiffington in Plimmerton, north of Wellington.

Those events were said to have taken place between September 2006 and January 2007.

Mr Burston told the court major decisions about Tenths' affairs were made collectively by its trustees, and Sir Ngatata had no power to make major decisions himself without consultation.

However, when he began discussions with the developers in October 2005 he introduced them to his son, Matene Love, and told them he was the person who was able to negotiate with them regarding a joint venture.

Various payments were made to a company associated with Matene Love, but in an email he told the developers any reference to his company should be removed from correspondence, so it looked like it was his father they were dealing with.

Last year he pleaded guilty to a charge relating to his part in the proposed property development and last October he was sentenced to six months home detention.

In September 2006 Ms Skiffington sent an email to the developers telling them Sir Ngatata now wanted her to be the contact between them and the Tenths Trust.

She said a consultancy fee would need to be decided on and an agreement was later signed, under which the developers would pay $1.5 million to her company within seven days of it coming into effect.

Ms Skiffington was also initially charged with fraud relating to her involvement in the property negotiations, but she is seriously ill and the charges against her were stayed in August last year.

She and Sir Ngatata also fought a battle through many courts to try and keep their names suppressed, but the suppression lapsed today.

The Crown said no other trustees of the Tenths Trust knew or consented to the arrangements concerning payments from the developer to Ms Skiffington's company.

Mr Burston said the evidence would be that the agreement "put Dr Love in a position where his personal interests and duties to the Tenths were in conflict".

He "intended to deceive his fellow trustees and, ultimately, the beneficiaries of the Tenths".

The trial is expected to run until the middle of August.