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Maori radicals threaten BNZ chief at his home

By Deborah Hill Cone

Friday 20th December 2002

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Bank of New Zealand spent up to $1 million protecting its managing director against threats from Maori extremists. But at the last minute, charges against the man involved were dropped, a National Business Review investigation revealed yesterday.

BNZ went into crisis mode last year when managing director Peter Thodey received threatening letters and phone calls from Maori separatist organisation New Zealand Armed Intervention Force (NZAIF), claiming to be acting for a customer with a grievance.

Internal BNZ documents NBR obtained show Mr Thodey was approached by disgruntled BNZ customer Phillip Verry, a Christchurch accountant who has a high profile as an outspoken critic of the Wool Board, and his self-styled "negotiator" Kelvyn Alp, a Maori who set up the NZAIF.

Mr Verry, a conspiracy theorist who blames BNZ for many of New Zealand's problems, claimed BNZ owed him and his business associates $8.3 million after his import company, Khaya Holdings, failed and the family was forced to sell its 1600ha family farm.

Mr Alp demanded Mr Thodey negotiate with him over the Verry case ­ or else.

"This will not carry on any longer, you will complete negotiations expeditiously, fairly and without deviation from moral values. If those negotiations are unsuccessful a range of other actions will trigger automatically. If there is a nightmare in the future it will then be yours and your colleagues," one letter, quoted in police documents, reads.

A police summary of facts shows how Mr Thodey appealed to the police for help last February after receiving the series of intimidating letters from Mr Verry and night-time visits from Mr Alp and other members of the NZAIF dressed in military garb at his home in Remuera, Auckland.

"These events have significantly impacted on my family and myself, and while I understand that in the police view it is a low-risk situation, I believe my statement shows a very threatening escalation by Messrs Verry and Alp. I firmly believe from their comments (written and verbal) that these men feel that they are above the law," Mr Thodey said.

Yet despite preparing the case to charge Mr Alp with criminal harassment, which carries a maximum penalty of two years' jail, police at the last minute withdrew charges and chose not to proceed with the case. Mr Alp's lawyer Peter Winter said charges were dropped just before a depositions hearing because the complainant, Mr Thodey, backed away.

A source said BNZ had spent $1 million on the extensive security arrangements to protect Mr Thodey, although a private investigator source said that figure seemed high.

A BNZ report on the crisis shows "close personal protection personnel" from Couper Group, some of them ex-SAS officers, were deployed to Mr Thodey's Remuera address after he received the threats.

The NZAIF is described by its own members as a Maori sovereignty group sanctioned by the Confederation of Chiefs of the United Tribes of Aotearoa, the "Maori government" of New Zealand.

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