Love's QC Carruthers winds up defence saying Shaan Stevens 'lied', Skiffington 'used' client
Ngatata Love's lawyer in his fraud case wound up the defence by accusing a key witness of being a "bare-faced" liar and saying the high-profile Maori elder was "used" by his "partner" Lorraine Skiffington.
Skiffington and Shaan Stevens, a consultant who worked closely with the pair, were to blame for the situation the Crown says was fraud committed by Love, the former chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust.
In the High Court in Wellington today, Colin Carruthers QC delivered the closing defence submissions for Love, who is charged with obtaining significant sums by deception, or alternately obtaining a secret commission.
After presenting high profile New Zealanders to vouch for Love, who has a knighthood and a doctorate, Carruthers summed up today by saying the Crown's case was "a completely unacceptable proposition which flies in the face of a lifetime of service."
The Crown says Love signed an agreement in late 2006 with Auckland property developers Redwood Group and Equinox Group to ensure they could lease land owned by the Wellington Tenths Trust. Part of that deal was a $3 million service fee, of which $1.5 million was paid through Pipitea Street Development Limited (PSDL), a company owned by his companion Lorraine Skiffington, soon after the lease was signed, without the trust's knowledge. That money is said to have been used to repay a property loan on a Plimmerton house he and Skiffington co-owned, with a second payment due later.
Carruthers today told the judge in the judge-only case to look carefully at the involvement of Stevens, another director of PSDL, "whose fingerprints and footprints are all over the documents in the negotiations, and it is clear from the evidence he was engaged right from the start of the negotiations until the end of the agreement to lease."
Carruthers said Stevens had told a "barefaced lie" in saying that his only involvement at PSDL was to make payments, and that he had not met with the developers and had been told that was being handled by Love and Skiffington.
"There's no alternative but to a finding his evidence is not credible," Carruthers said. "If you look at the Burton & Co file it is peppered with references to Mr Stevens' involvement at meetings and in correspondence and Mr Stevens' negotiations."
Love's lawyer also pointed the finger at Skiffington, who has been granted a permanent stay of charges due to ill health, saying she had used Love to promote her own position and had used Love's name in correspondence and dealings. Carruthers said there hadn't been a partnership relationship between the two, and the financial arrangements they had for the Moana Rd property mortgage showed this.
Carruthers said Love didn't have control or oversight of the bank accounts which the money for the mortgage payment was placed in, but Skiffington and Stevens did. The purchase of the Moana Rd property was Skiffington's initiative, as she was selling her house in Khandallah and documents presented show it was her application, he said.
"The reason for his involvement is the transaction was to be 100 percent financed and needed support so the bank would be satisfied it had some access to proper resources," Carruthers said. "The transaction had its origins with Mr Stevens and Ms Skiffington. There's no basis for a connection between the purchase and the services agreement as far as the defendant is concerned."
Justice Graham Lang will deliver his verdict next Thursday.
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