A high-profile businessman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, denies knowing about a plot to make a former tenant drop a sexual assault complaint.
A high-profile businessman has denied knowing about a plot to make a former tenant drop a sexual assault complaint against him.
The businessman, who has interim name suppression, has denied three charges of indecent assault and attempting to stop a complainant from giving evidence. He is on trial at the High Court at Auckland.
All three complainants in the trial say they were sexually assaulted at the businessman’s Auckland home. The first two – one in 2000 or 2001 and another in 2008 – were at the house for business meetings, according to evidence given earlier in the trial. The third complainant was living and working at the businessman’s house in 2016.
The defendant was giving evidence for a second day on Friday. He said he had been told the complainant in the alleged 2016 assault was planning to “sell his story” to Australian media, where name suppression orders made in the New Zealand courts would not apply.
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He agreed he paid a public relations company $50,000 to “deal with” that “rumour” to protect his reputation.
The head of the public relations company and two associates used the businessman’s money to fly to Australia and bring the complainant at the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast, pressing him to withdraw his statement. The businessman told the jury he had no knowledge of the plan – known as the “Gold Coast attempt” – or about an earlier meeting an associate held with the complainant, also intended to dissuade him from going ahead.
“[The associate] told you nothing about the April 7 meeting?” prosecutor Simon Foote asked.
“Nothing. What a fatuous way to go about doing anything. Batty, ridiculous.” the defendant said.
“You knew nothing about the Gold Coast?”
“Nothing. I would have regarded it as totally ridiculous as well as illegal, and I wouldn’t have condoned it. But they did seem to have great party” the defendant said. The businessman was billed $20,000 in expenses after the trip.
He told the court he would have been “annoyed” if he knew his associate was “doing these things” in his name, but agreed he had continued to give funds to projects the man was working on, after he knew of the illegal behaviour.
The associate, a well-known entertainer, was also charged with attempting to dissuade a witness and was expected to appear at trial, but changed his plea in February to guilty.
A manager associated with the businessman is also on trial on charges of perverting the course of justice, for his alleged role in the Gold Coast attempt.
The trial, in front of Justice Geoffrey Venning, continues.
Where to get help for sexual violence
- Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00, click link for local helplines.
- Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline 0800 842 846, text 4334, webchat safetotalk.nz or email [email protected]
- The Harbour Online support and information for people affected by sexual abuse.
- Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843 (females only)
- Male Survivors Aotearoa Helplines across NZ, click to find out more (males only)
- If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.
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