25 Aug 2016

Sir Ngatata kept information secret, Crown says

10:36 pm on 25 August 2016

A Māori leader deliberately kept information about a property developer's payment to a company connected with his partner secret, the Crown says.

However, the lawyer acting for Tenths Trust former chairman Sir Ngatata Love said it was unacceptable to suggest that, after a lifetime of service to the Wellington iwi organisation, Sir Ngatata would deprive his people of a great deal of money.

Ngatata Love has has his name suppression lifted.

Ngatata Love has has his name suppression lifted. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Crown has accused Sir Ngatata of selling his influence to a property developer which paid over $1 million into a company run by his partner, Lorraine Skiffington.

Most of that money is said to have been used to pay down the couple's mortgage.

In his closing address in the High Court in Wellington today, Crown prosecutor Grant Burston said documents showed the pair worked to gain control, for their own benefit, the proceeds from a services agreement entered into between Ms Skiffington's company and the developers.

"If the developers had known the money was going to the couple, not to the Tenths Trust, it would never have made the payments," he said.

Sir Ngatata had put into effect a scheme to gain control of the funds from the first part of the developer's payment, by exploiting his position as Tenths Trust chairman, Mr Burston said.

If the other trustees had known what Sir Ngatata had done, they could not have permitted it to occur, he said.

"A claim of right defence could also be excluded because the defendant could not have honestly believed obtaining the money in the way he did was lawful."

However, the defence lawyer, Colin Carruthers QC, said the house purchase was clearly initiated by Sir Ngatata's partner, Lorraine Skiffington, and his client's only role was to support her, given the property was to be bought with a 100 percent finance mortgage.

Ms Skiffington filled in the bank forms, mis-spelling Sir Ngatata's name - and "someone clearly gave misinformation to the bank because there was no way Sir Ngatata was worth $8 million" as the form claimed, he said.

Shaan Stevens, a disgraced lawyer who served 10 months' home detention for fraud, was involved in negotiations for the property development and gave evidence for the Crown.

Mr Carruthers said Justice Lang needed to take a close look at what he had to say about meetings regarding the development, describing Mr Stevens' evidence as bare-faced lies.

The Crown said it was no answer to its case for the defence to say the money involved went to Ms Skiffington's company, not to Sir Ngatata.

However, Mr Carruthers said there was no deception, and the Serious Fraud Office's search of his client's document destruction bins brought to mind Senator Joseph McCarthy and John Edgar Hoover.

Justice Lang is expected to give his verdict next week.

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