24 Jun 2015

Government didn't tell Saudi to sue - PM

8:34 pm on 24 June 2015

The Government did not tell a Saudi businessman to sue New Zealand over its ban on live sheep exports, the Prime Minister says.

Prime Minister, John Key.

Prime Minister John Key Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

But John Key said ministers may have advised him to test his legal position in the courts.

The Government has given the Saudi businessman more than $11 million in cash, livestock and agricultural equipment, saying he had threatened legal action and that New Zealand could have been sued for up to $30 million.

A letter dated 2011 to Foreign Minister Murray McCully from a New Zealand company aligned with the businessman, Brownrigg Agriculture, said the Government had advised the businessman to seek "commercial redress".

Today, Mr Key told Parliament that was not uncommon.

"What ministers do from time to time say, and I've actually said myself, is people are free to test their legal rights in court. There's quite a big difference."

The Government is also giving Brownrigg Agriculture another $11 million to produce marbled beef.

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