Wealthy NZ businessman sexually assaulted young men, court told

7:20 pm on 18 February 2021

The central figure in a High Court trial has been described as a "wealthy, influential businessman" who took opportunities with young men who came to him for help.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The businessman denies indecently assaulting three men and making two attempts to dissuade a witness, while another man on trial also denies trying to dissuade a witness.

Both have name suppression in the jury trial which began in the High Court in Auckland today.

In an opening statement, Crown lawyer Simon Foote said the three complainants in the case did not know each other but all had stories "with similarities".

Over a period of more than 15 years, all three were indecently assaulted by the prominent New Zealand businessman at his house, Foote said.

One man went there in 2001 to discuss a charity deal but unexpectedly found he was the businessman's only guest, he said.

After dinner, the businessman asked him if he wanted to cuddle.

When the man left the house, it is alleged the businessman thrust his hands down his pants, grabbing on to his genitals while the man tried to wrestle free.

Foote said the man did not tell anyone what happened for many years.

"He tried, essentially, to get over it," he said.

While showing another man around his house in 2016, the businessman groped his bottom and kissed him on the neck, Foote said.

The third complainant was at the businessman's house in 2008 when he fell ill with food poisoning and went for a lie down, Foote said.

Foote said the businessman, wearing only black underwear, followed the man to the bedroom, joined him in the bed and groped his genitals.

When the third man decided to tell the police about their alleged assault, the businessman made two attempts to dissuade him - by offering $15,000 and then work opportunities in exchange for his silence, Foote said.

The businessman is accused of getting people to help him, including the other defendant, and people who work in public relations.

Foote told the jury they would be shown evidence of meetings which happened in Auckland and the Gold Coast, including phone calls.

He said it was evidence which implicated the businessman and the other defendant "in what becomes quite an elaborate if poorly executed plot".

Foote told the jury it was a "simple" case about a man who took opportunities with people he had influence over.

"[A man] who took advantage of others by using his powerful and influential position in criminal ways. First, he indecently assaulted three young men who had come to him for help," he said.

However, the lawyer for the businessman, David Jones, told the jury they needed to keep an open mind and set aside the Crown's "cynical and negative connotations" about the businessman.

He asked them to question if the three men's accounts were credible.

"Because the other side of the coin of being a wealthy philanthropist is that a lot of people are coming to you asking for money. And a lot of people are going to have to go away ... disappointed, unhappy, because they are not up to the mark."

The trial before a jury of nine women and three men is expected to take five weeks.