17 Aug 2018

Court deliberates disputed facts in Commerce Commission case

6:23 pm on 17 August 2018

It's the case of the celebrity-endorsed deer velvet, the chocolate substitute and the conspiracy.

The Dunedin District Court was this week the venue for a disputed facts hearing between the Commerce Commission - the plaintiff - and Silberhorn Limited and its director Ian Carline - the defendants.

Twenty-eight charges were previously admitted yet the court has to rule on the interpretation of an agreed summary of facts.

Between March 2011 and August 2015, Silberhorn's deer velvet capsules contained less velvet than was stated on the label - more than 10 percent less in some cases.

But what was disputed was whether it was done intentionally to mislead the public or if it was an oversight.

Ms Ablett-Kerr insisted it was the latter.

The company's director, Mr Carline, broke down while taking the stand this afternoon.

He reluctantly gave his admission of guilt, he said.

He had faced difficulties throughout life, including health problems, and the past few years were particularly strenuous, he said wiping away tears.

If he was to attend school these days he would be diagnosed as dyslexic and he struggled with English as a subject in high school, Mr Carline said.

The public revelation of the court case came earlier this week when Silberhorn - now known as Gateway Solutions Limited - and Mr Carline lost name suppression.

The court case had been rolling along in the background for almost three years.

The company admitted 26 charges relating to diluting deer velvet with carob, a cocoa substitute, and Silberhorn and its director, Ian Carline, each admitted one count of withholding information from the commission.

It emerged in court this week that the man who sparked the investigation was Colin Lee - the head of a company contracted to carry out work for Silberhorn.

Commission investigator Wiremu Lourie told the court Mr Carline had made complaints about him and the investigation and had suggested there was a Ngāpuhi conspiracy at work - in conjunction with Mr Lee - within the Commerce Commission.

The suggestion was "laughable", Mr Lourie said.

This afternoon, Mr Carline clarified that suggestion was not his view but rumours and "hearsay" which had been passed on to him.

The case was set down for five days, though some said it would take three. In any event it was now unlikely to wrap up before Wednesday next week.

Technological faults marred the early stages of the week and extended cross examination of Mr Lourie yesterday and today caused frustration for the Commerce Commission's legal team, and lawyer Ian Brookie raising the relevance of questioning several times with Judge Kevin Phillips.

Mr Carline's evidence will continue on Monday morning.