Māori leader Ngātata Love banned from contacting trust

7:17 pm on 21 August 2017

Māori leader Ngātata Love has been banned from any contact with the iwi organisation he once led, as part of parole when he is released from jail in October.

Love, the former chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust, was jailed for two and a half years after a High Court judge found him guilty of obtaining property by deception.

Sir Ngatata Love during his trial in the High Court of Wellington on 6 October 2016.

Ngātata Love during his trial in October last year. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

Developers who thought they were dealing with the trust in the mid-2000s paid $1.5 million to a company run by Ngātata Love's partner Lorraine Skiffington, but most of the money was used to pay down a mortgage on the couple's home.

Ms Skiffington also faced charges, but the prosecution was stayed as a result of her suffering terminal cancer.

Love appealed against his conviction and sentence earlier this year, but the Court of Appeal upheld it.

Last week, the Parole Board indicated Love would be released from prison in October, and today it released its full decision.

Despite concerns about Love's dementia, the board found he was able to express himself well.

The board noted the Court of Appeal said Love tended to blame what happened on his former partner and continued to do so at his hearing.

"He maintained, as he had at trial, that he had no knowledge of the events which formed the backbone of the Crown's case and he placed the entire blame upon Ms Skiffington and her accountant.

"He told the panel that he had no knowledge that he or any trust of his was a 50 percent owner of the property, yet he said that he 'accepted the process which was carried through ... but he did not have the intention to defraud anyone.' "

The Parole Board said that stance belied the findings of the trial judge.

Several members of Love's family and other supporters made submissions to the board seeking his release from prison, but the board said "we need to make it abundantly clear that parole is not determined by 'referendum or petitions' from those who support release, or not, as the case may be."

The relevance of support for an offender was whether others were able to manage their risk on release, the board said.

He will be released about a month after his 80th birthday.

Due to "advanced age, some compromised mental functioning, declining physical health ... and the strength of family and community support" the board was satisfied he should be freed from prison.

Parole conditions include attending a hui to ensure his whānau and supporters understand the importance of adhering to parole.

He was prohibited from engaging in any financial or property transactions or business acquisitions without a probation officer's approval.

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