More tricky - Cunliffe's role in $4m house purchase

David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday story summary:

The Labour leader dodged questions about helping his rich friend and donor buy an idyllic holiday home

You see, the Herald on Sunday asked  about the $4 million purchase. His response:

When the Herald on Sunday asked Cunliffe two weeks ago about the four-bedroom, 200sqm house at Ti Point, overlooking the Omaha holiday home of Prime Minister John Key, he said he had nothing to do with the sale.

Cunliffe said he had no beneficial interest in the property, and his wife Karen had simply played a legal role with the trustee company which bought the property.

If he was not telling the truth, Cunliffe said, “you can have my testicles for garters”.

So they clear impression he gave the Herald on Sunday was it had nothing to do with him, and his wife was simply acting as a lawyer with the sale.

However:

Real estate agent Lorraine Mildon said Cunliffe had been involved in the purchase, and had visited the property.

Cunliffe returned to the property shortly before Waitangi Day last year, she said, on behalf of a friend who was in America.

“He didn’t buy it. His friend did. He came and looked at it on behalf of his friend but he didn’t sign the agreement.”

Neighbour Jan Haslam said she believed Cunliffe had been to visit the property. 

The real estate agent says Cunliffe was involved in the purchase and visited the property pre-sale.

Cunliffe said he first visited with Keenan, who wanted to buy the property, but the gate was locked. “We weren’t able to get on to the property.”

Keenan returned to the US, but Cunliffe went back to Ti Point with his wife and children to inspect the house.

So why did Cunliffe give the Herald on Sunday the impression the sale had nothing to do with him:

Cunliffe did not disclose his visits when the Herald on Sunday inquired about it on February 22. This weekend, he said he had checked his recording of the interview and he had truthfully answered questions about any beneficial ownership of the property. “If you had asked me whether I had visited the property, then my answer would have been yes,” Cunliffe said.

They asked him if he was involved in the sale and he said no. Most people would answer yes if they had been out to visit the property on behalf of the prospective owner. But once again, Cunliffe goes for the tricky response.

Let’s be clear. I don’t have a problem with an MP helping an old friend who is based overseas purchase a property. Nothing wrong with helping your friends. It does get murkier when the friend later becomes a personal donor, which is why disclosure requirements are so important.

The issue is Cunliffe’s response to the Herald on Sunday. His response shouldn’t have been to deny he had anything to do with the sale. It should have been “Yeah I helped Perry purchase it. He’s an old mate and was only in NZ for a few days, so I checked it out for him. It was great to be able to help him out, as that is what mates do for each other”

But he basically denied all knowledge of it, and only when the Herald on Sunday came back to him with testimony from the real estate agent did he admit he was involved, but then claimed he didn’t lie when he originally denied it because he interpreted the Herald on Sunday’s inquiries to be about whether he had a beneficial interest in the property, rather than any involvement.

This is exactly what people mean when they talk about being tricky.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

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