$4 million was to advance trade not settle legal claim

It is now even more apparent that the $4 million payment to the Al Khalaf group was to advance trade with Saudi Arabia, not to settle a legal claim, says Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.

“Documents released today show the Auditor General found the Indicative Business Case raised more questions than it answers.

“The Government has wasted $6 million on the farm in the desert, $1 million on flying sheep on Singapore Airlines and worst of all gave $4 million as a cash payment to Al Khalaf group, for which there is no legal justification.

“This is the first time ever New Zealand has paid a facilitation payment to a disaffected businessman in order to advance a trade deal.

“Murray McCully first disclosed the $4 million up-front payment in May this year because he could not hide it any longer. A 2013 cabinet paper was to be released the next day which referenced it.

“He had kept the payment so quiet it was not mentioned in any press releases from him or his government going back to 2012.

“In May Mr McCully said in Parliament that the $4m payment claimed was to settle a legal claim of up to $30 million by the Al Khalaf group.

“He then changed his story, but only after I personally contacted every Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Ministers of foreign affairs, trade, finance and agriculture in the Labour-led government from 2005 onwards. That is Ministers Clark, Cullen, Peters, Goff and Anderton. None recalled any contact with MFAT or any other government agency about this alleged claim.

“No legal basis for a successful claim ever existed. Even if it had, by 2013 it would have expired because of the six year limit to commence Court proceedings under the Limitation Act.

“Mr McCully's pretence was unpicked, and he had to acknowledge any threat of claim had been dropped.

“Over recent months, the Government has delayed the release of information at every turn. The OIA has been repeatedly breached. The Government has suppressed release of official documents for many months. The documents released today are edited – even the media talking points provided by officials have been redacted.

“The delays have rightly made people suspicious. Today’s documents show an unscrupulous deal which no New Zealand government should be part of,” says David Parker.