23 Mar 2021

Businessman found guilty of indecent assault of three men

4:58 pm on 23 March 2021

A prominent businessman who claimed complainants completely made up their claims of abuse has been found guilty of indecently assaulting three of them and trying to bribe one to drop his case.

Auckland court coat of arms.

Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

A jury returned the unanimous verdict today after a four-week trial in the High Court at Auckland.

The Crown had said the man, who continues to have name suppression, indecently touched three men in the early 2000s, 2008 and 2016 and took advantage of the power imbalance between him and the young men.

He then tried to bribe a complainant to drop the allegations on two occasions, including through two PR agents acting on his behalf, the Crown said.

An associate of the businessman, who also has name suppression, was tried concurrently with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The jury also found the associate guilty.

The defence had said the allegations were entirely made up after the men sought financial support from the accused and did not receive it, and the accused did not know of any attempt to bribe the man.

The jury returned unanimous verdicts today after 11-and-a-half hours, finding the businessman guilty for the three charges of indecent assault charge, and two charges of attempting to dissuade a witness.

The businessman was silent but looked shocked when the verdicts were read out.

During the trial, one complainant said his drink was spiked by the accused causing him to feel woozy before being assaulted. Another said he had his pants pulled down and his genitals touched and the third said he was groped non-consensually while in bed.

Crown prosecutor Simon Foote QC said the third man had maintained his version of events for four years and throughout two bribery attempts, where he could have netted at least $15,000 to retract his statement.

There was no suggestion any of the three men had colluded with each other; none knew either of the others and each still have their names secret.

In his closing address to the jury, the businessman's lawyer David Jones said the complainants had made up their claims hoping to financially benefit.

"They want to bring someone down, for whatever reason, and this is their way of doing it," Jones said. "They know that they have [name] suppression, as a matter of law, so they can come along and throw rocks and not be named."

Jones told the jury his client had no knowledge of a plan to try to bribe one of the complainants to retract his statement during a trip to the Gold Coast.

He said the businessman would never be involved in something so stupid or illegal.

Jones said his client had been targeted.

"That's one of the drawbacks of being successful and being influential," he said.

Jones said the accused did not remember the first two complainants' visits at all, and the third made up a story which did not happen.

The trial started more than a month ago, and the legal proceedings two years ago.

The first trial started in March 2019 but was aborted. The beginning of this trial was delayed by Auckland's first February Covid-19 alert level three shift, then again delayed a week later.

The businessman was remanded for sentencing on 6 May.

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