I was foolish to embroil wife in hovercraft deal, says Wong

By Karyn Scherer

Minister of Ethnic Affairs Pansy Wong. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Minister of Ethnic Affairs Pansy Wong. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Ethnic Affairs Minister Pansy Wong's husband has defended her involvement in a multimillion-dollar business deal that has gone sour in China.

Her husband, businessman Sammy Wong, said in hindsight it was foolish to involve his wife in the deal between a Rotorua businessman and a Chinese investor.

However, Mr Wong claimed the couple had done nothing wrong, and insisted they had been unfairly caught in the middle of a business dispute.

This week in Parliament, Labour accused Mrs Wong of improperly using her ministerial title in documents related to the deal.

A spokesman for Prime Minister John Key said Cabinet Office advice was that Mrs Wong had done nothing wrong. But Rotorua aircraft engineer Stephen Preest said he was still furious that he has been left nearly $2 million out of pocket, and that the Wongs had not done more to help him.

Mr Preest told the Herald from South Korea he had high hopes for his business, Pacific Hovercraft, when he agreed to a joint venture with Chinese businessman Terry Yang in 2008.

Mrs Wong's husband helped to broker the deal, and is a shareholder in the joint venture. The business was shifted to China in 2008 and Mrs Wong visited the firm at the end of that year.

Mr Preest claimed the Chinese company fired him without explanation, leaving him broke and devastated. He is suing Mr Yang through the Chinese courts for money he claims he is owed in royalties, parts and lost profits.

Documents obtained by the Herald show Mr Yang claimed to the NZ China Business Association in July last year that he had bought Pacific Hovercraft for US$14 million ($17.9 million). He claimed to have turned the company around, and urged other Chinese investors to look at the "many good investment projects in New Zealand".

Mr Preest described the statement as "ridiculous". "He didn't buy the company at all. It's still my company. He paid a little bit of money, but it wasn't anything like US$14 million."

Mr Yang, whose Chinese name is Yang Guang Ming, is believed to have emigrated to New Zealand 10 years ago. Mr Wong believed the relationship between Mr Preest and Mr Yang broke down due to communication problems and business issues between the pair.

He was also angry that his wife had come under scrutiny. "She had nothing to do with it. The only reason she was there was because I had to spend so much time there... In hindsight, she shouldn't have been a witness. But hindsight is a [wonderful] thing."

- NZ Herald

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