The Employment Court has released an interlocutory judgment that has "adjusted significantly" the list of search terms relating to personal and irrelevant documents on a laptop and two USBs at the heart of Zespri's ongoing dispute with its former China employee Joseph Yu.

Mr Yu worked for Zespri Management Consulting Company (ZMCC), which was fined almost $1 million after being convicted of under-declaration of customs duties in China between 2008 and 2010. He has served three years of a five-year jail term after being found guilty of being an accessory to smuggling charges laid against ZMCC.

However, in late 2014, he filed a personal grievance claim against Zespri with the Employment Relations Authority. Mr Yu's full personal grievance claim is unlikely to be heard until he is released from prison.

Zespri is the plaintiff in a challenge to the ERA's determination that a work laptop used by Mr Yu that was seized by the Shanghai Anti-Smuggling Bureau be delivered to the authority for inspection by both parties' counsel. In June last year the Employment Court heard of mutual distrust between the two parties and Justice Colgan ordered the laptop be sent to the court.

Advertisement

Agreement has since been reached for independent forensic expert Michael Spence to undertake the search of the laptop and two USBs also found. But the two parties have been in dispute over the best way to extract information because of various claims to legal privilege over documents possibly on the document, as well as information personal to Mr Yu. Earlier this year, Mr Yu sought further directions from the court about the key search terms.

In his interlocutory judgment, reached on April 15 and released last week, Chief Judge Colgan said there was no longer any dispute about the 30 combinations of words or phrases Zespri wants to use in the search, and a list proposed by Mr Yu would also be incorporated. However, five search terms Mr Yu claimed related to personal documents were successfully disputed by Zespri.

The judgment reserved leave to either party to apply for further orders and directions.

A Zespri spokesman described the latest decision as "procedural".