Wednesday 10th August 2016
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Shaan Stevens, the Singapore-based businessman who is a key Crown witness in the fraud trial of Ngatata Love, says he returned to New Zealand to give evidence because he felt it was his "civic duty".
Stevens is at the heart of the Crown's case because along with Love's partner Lorraine Skiffington, he was a director of Pipitea Street Development, a company he established for the pair. PSD was paid $1.5 million plus GST by Auckland-based property developer Redwood Group in relation to property interests on Pipitea Street in Wellington owned by the Wellington Tenths Trust, a Maori incorporation.
Love, who was chairman of the Tenths Trust at the time, faces one Crimes Act charge of ‘obtaining by deception’ and one charge under Section 4 of the Secret Commissions Act. Skiffington got a permanent stay on charges against her because of her ill health.
Stevens began his evidence on Monday but was interrupted when Love was taken to hospital with a heart condition. In the High Court today he said he transferred $1.4 million of the Redwood Group fee to trusts owned by Love and Skiffington, which they used to purchase a house in Plimmerton. Stevens had felt it should be used by the Tenths Trust to cover costs related to the Pipitea development but he felt powerless to refuse given that Love was on the board of the Hui Taumata Trust, one of the biggest clients of his consultancy firm Guinness Gallagher.
Hui Taumata has since been wound up but its 2009 financial accounts show its board was stacked with high-profile New Zealanders, including former Governor-General Paul Reeves, Ngai Tahu leader Tipene O'Regan, Ngati Tuwharetoa leader Tumu Te Heu Heu, former Ernst & Young chairman Rob McLeod, former Business New Zealand boss Phil O'Reilly, former union boss Ross Wilson, and company director June McCabe.
The trust was among many initiatives that Love, a former head of Te Puni Kokiri, drove as one of the nation's most influential and well-connected Maori leaders. He was knighted on the advice of former Prime Minister Helen Clark
Asked why he had returned to New Zealand to give evidence at the trial, Stevens told BusinessDesk outside the court that he felt it was his civic duty.
"I was concerned about what I saw," he said. Stevens said he couldn't discuss details of the case outside of his evidence in court.
Guinness Gallagher is now based in Singapore and has clients including the World Bank. Its projects range across Asia including Cambodia, Indonesia, and Tashkent.
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