5 Mar 2019

High profile NZer 'used his powerful position to take advantage of others'

8:01 pm on 5 March 2019

A prominent New Zealander accused of sexually assaulting two men used his powerful position to take advantage of others, a court has heard.


Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The man, who has interim name suppression, is on trial in the Auckland District Court after pleading not guilty to two charges each of indecent assault and attempting to dissuade a witness.

He is standing trial with two associates who have pleaded not guilty to one and three charges of attempting to dissuade a witness respectively.

Judge Russell Collins refused the man's application for name suppression this morning but it continues on an interim basis after his lawyer David Jones QC indicated he would appeal the decision to the High Court.

The Crown's case

Crown prosecutor Simon Foote said the man had used and abused his power to indecently assault one man in 2008 and another in 2016.

"This is a case is about a rich and influential businessman who has used his powerful position to take advantage of others."

He said the first complainant had been dining with the man at his house in February 2008 when he started to feel dizzy.

The court heard the man squeezed his bottom and said "You have such a sweet ass" before kissing the back of his neck.

Mr Foote said the second man was indecently assaulted when he was staying with the man in October 2016.

He said the accused got into bed with him when he was ill with food poisoning despite his protest, saying things like "I want to hold you, I want to embrace you".

The court heard the man held the complainant firmly from behind before reaching into his shorts and masturbating him.

The prosecutor said the first man came forward, nine years after the alleged sexual assault, after hearing the second had made a complaint with police.

The accused is also alleged to have made numerous attempts to snuff out this police complaint through his associates.

The court heard the co-defendants made numerous attempts to bribe the man with large cheques and future work opportunities on his behalf.

The defence

The accused man has strenuously denied the allegations and today his lawyer David Jones QC told the jury his client had done nothing wrong.

Mr Jones said he outright denied the first encounter and insisted he was only trying to help the second man when he was clearly unwell.

He said his client had been painted in a "dark and sinister light" when it was in fact the complainants who were taking advantage of him.

"You will be aware that people who are successful are often targets. They are people who get preyed upon by those who want something; who want money; who want some sort of influence; who want to get ahead with the assistance or with the help of the person who has the influence or power. And when they don't get it they can get nasty."

The other men's lawyers, Barbara Hunt and Siobhan Buckley, also told the jury their clients had done nothing wrong in brief opening addresses.

Mr Jones accused the Crown of handpicking evidence for its case and asked the jury to objectively and critically consider the evidence.

First assault

The first complainant told the jury he met the accused about a potential business opportunity at his home in February 2008.

He said the man made him several gin and tonic drinks before telling him, "By the way, you're staying for dinner."

"I really distinctly remember those words because it was so unusual; usually you're asked if you'd like to stay for dinner but it was a command. Like it had already been arranged."

The man told the court he accepted thinking it would help his business case but the conversation turned personal as they ate.

Later, the complainant said he began to feel unwell and he was uncomfortable with the conversation.

"I became very aware that I needed to leave because I was getting very uncomfortable with what he was suggesting and how I was physically feeling."

He said the man came up behind him and squeezed his bottom, saying "god you've got such a sweet ass" before kissing the back of his neck.

"I was so shocked. I just stopped. I stood very still and it's strange to say this, because this is not what I would do now but I was 11 years younger then and maybe naive, but I think I dealt with it by laughing it off and trying to be polite."

The complainant told the court he left the room and found a phone to call a taxi and go home, where he told his partner what had happened.

Mr Jones QC questioned his story and put to him he had make things up to make it sound more credible.

"Everything I said today is the absolute truth," the man replied.

The trial before Judge Colllins and a jury of seven women and five men is set down for four weeks.