28 Jun 2023

Sir James Wallace revealed as 'prominent businessman' convicted of indecent assault

3:02 pm on 28 June 2023
Sir James Wallace, one of New Zealand's best-known art collectors, businessmen, and philanthropists, arrives at court in 2019. He has since been jailed for indecently assaulting three young men.

Sir James Wallace Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Sir James Wallace, one of New Zealand's best-known art collectors, businessmen, and philanthropists, can now be named as the "prominent businessman" jailed for indecently assaulting three young men.

The case has run through the courts for several years and each time Wallace has been granted name suppression and has been identified only as a prominent businessman.

However, that suppression lapsed at 2pm today with a final judgment by the Supreme Court.

It ruled that there was no extreme hardship caused by his naming outside the "normal consequences" of a high-profile person being convicted and jailed.

Wallace was sentenced to two years and four months in prison after a jury found him guilty of indecent assault and then twice trying to bribe one to drop the complaint.

The government has initiated the process for honours forfeiture in relation to Wallace.

Acting Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni said late this afternoon the process was under way.

Wallace will have 30 days to respond before a decision - made by the prime minister who then advises the King to cancel the appointment - is made.

Honours can be taken away from those who have done something to "damage" the system's reputation.

Wallace, who is 85, is part of the Wallace family which made its money in rural services and meat processing.

In 2018, he was listed on the NBR rich list as being worth $165 million.

His art collection has been a fixture in Auckland for some years. In 2010, the art was moved to the historic Pah Homestead in Hillsborough, part of the city's Monte Cecilia project.

The Wallace Art Trust has severed its connections with its founder.

Claudia Wyss from Auckland Council, which manages the homestead's lease, said the artworks will remain on public display.

She said they represented one of the most substantial collections of contemporary New Zealand art.

Wallace's collection consisted of 9000 works by 2020.

Wallace received a knighthood for services to the arts in the-then Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2011.

In an interview for his knighthood, he said he worked out as a young man he was no good at painting, so instead began to collect art.

Sir James Wallace

Sir James Wallace at the time of his knighthood. Photo: Supplied

As well as setting up the James Wallace Arts Trust, which administered and exhibited his extensive collection of New Zealand art, the awards in his name gave prominence and help to emerging artists.

He has supported the Auckland Writers Festival, the Auckland Philharmonia and the Auckland Theatre Company.

His support for the arts led to him also being conferred by AUT with an honorary doctorate.

Meanwhile, Wallace will continue to fund restorations of a historic Christchurch building, the McLean's Mansion, according to the project's board.

It has been undergoing $10 million earthquake repairs, with Wallace stepping in in 2021 to chair the project.

In a statement to RNZ, the McLean's Mansion Trust board said the repair of the building was continuing, including funding by Wallace.

The board says its focus is on completing the project and bringing an important part of Christchurch's history back to life.

The case that led to jail term

The case against Sir James Wallace revolved around three men who told police they were assaulted at his four-storey mansion in Epsom after seeking career opportunities or business grants.

Two men said they were assaulted after going to his home for business meetings where they were given alcohol.

A third was working at the house as part of a residency.

Wallace denied the allegations.

He was initially charged in 2017, with the case running through the courts over several years and several appeals. He was also charged with two counts of trying to bribe a complainant to drop the case.

After being found guilty by a jury, he was sentenced to two years and four months in prison.

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