Sir Ngatata Love gives evidence in his fraud trial as doctor stands by

Sir Ngatata Love began his testimony today by outlining his personal history.

Former Treaty of Waitangi iwi negotiator Ngatata Love is giving evidence in the High Court in Wellington where he is accused of defrauding the Wellington Tenths Trust by taking payments to ensure property developers would win work with the iwi entity he chaired.

Preceded by a karakia from the public gallery, Sir Ngatata began his testimony today by outlining his personal history. The session was shortened to one hour to allow for his ill health, which had seen him hospitalised during the court hearing, and his doctor was on hand at today's hearing.

Sir Ngatata is the first defence witness to be called by his counsel, Colin Carruthers QC. The prosecution launched its case two-and-a-half weeks ago for the hearing that was initially set down for 11 days.

The former Victoria University of Wellington academic, who was made a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Maori in 2008 (which was later converted into a knighthood when New Zealand resumed issuing them), is charged with obtaining a secret commission and obtaining significant sums by deception.

The Crown says he signed an agreement in late 2006 with Auckland property developers Redwood Group and Equinox Group to ensure they could lease land owned by the Tenths Trust, and that he received service fees through Pipitea Street Development Ltd (PSDL), a company owned by his partner Lorraine Skiffington, without the trust's knowledge. That money is said to have been used to repay a property loan.

Ms Skiffington was also charged but has been granted a permanent stay due to her ill health, while Sir Ngatata's son, Matene Love, has already pleaded guilty to accepting a secret commission.

The judge-alone trial before Justice Graham Lang is continuing.


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