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Former CTU boss Wilson, Wira Gardiner vouch for ailing Love in fraud trial

Tuesday 23rd August 2016

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Ngatata Love's cross-examination was cut short in the High Court because of the fraud accused's ill health, paving the way for former public servant Wira Gardiner and former Council of Trade Unions boss Ross Wilson to appear as character witnesses and vouch for his good name.

Love is charged with obtaining a secret commission and obtaining significant sums by deception. The Crown says he signed an agreement in late 2006 with Auckland property developers Redwood Group and Equinox Group to ensure they could lease land owned by the Tenths Trust, and that he received service fees through Pipitea Street Development Limited (PSDL), a company owned by his partner Lorraine Skiffington, without the trust's knowledge. That money is said to have been used to repay a property loan.

Love was in the witness box for a second day, facing cross-examination, though the already abbreviated sessions were disrupted when he sought a breather heading into the lunch break. After a consultation with his doctor, who has been present in court during his evidence and cross-examination, defence counsel Colin Carruthers QC said Love would be fit to recommence tomorrow morning.

As a result, Gardiner, a former senior public servant knighted in 2008 for his services to Maori, husband to Education Minister Hekia Parata, founding chief executive of Te Puni Kokiri and founding director of the Waitangi Tribunal, and Wilson, a former lawyer and president of the CTU, were called to the witness box.

Gardiner, who was called first, said he had met Love in 1984 and had known about him for 40 years. In response to questions from Carruthers, he described Love as a man of the "utmost integrity" who he had never heard mention pecuniary gain and who he had not known to be dishonest.

Crown prosecutor Grant Burston asked Gardiner about his view on Love's mental acuity between 2004 and 2010. Gardiner said Love had an ability to articulate ideas and a capacity to make them work and said Love "continues to be" one of the most highly functional people he knows.

Burston asked whether Gardiner had any concerns in 2006 about Love having impaired executive function.

"His relationship with me was not impaired at all, but I can't comment other than that," Gardiner said. "The relationship was more me taking off him than him taking off me - there was value-add my way."

Wilson said he first met Love in 1997 and he had never had any reason to question Love's integrity. 

The judge-alone trial continues this week.

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