Fran O'Sullivan: Govt must show mercy to Hubbard widow

Jean Hubbard (right). Photo / Sarah Ivey
Jean Hubbard (right). Photo / Sarah Ivey

If John Key's Government has any heart at all it will release Jean Hubbard from statutory management today along with enough of their private funds so she can at least pay for her husband Allan's funeral.

It would be a gross indignity if Mrs Hubbard has to resort to ACC to meet the burial costs or ask the statutory manager to stump up directly.

Given the strong outpouring of grief in Timaru for the 83-year-old financier - and the overwhelming support for his wife - it would be politically inept to do otherwise.

So, I would be surprised if just such an option wasn't on the table when deputy solicitor-general Matthew Palmer and Crown Law officials gathered in Wellington yesterday to prepare recommendations for Justice Minister Simon Power to present to today's Cabinet meeting.

The 82-year-old Jean Hubbard is still recovering in Dunedin Hospital after suffering fractures in the same car accident that killed her husband.

Allan Hubbard's lawyer says the Serious Fraud Office's charges against him will now be stayed.

But while Jean Hubbard was a director in Aorangi Securities which was placed into statutory management, she, unlike her husband, was never charged with fraud in relation to its activities. Under the circumstances it would be an obscenity to leave her in a financial straitjacket.

The problem the Cabinet faces is that Hubbard's lawyers were due to go to the High Court in Timaru on Wednesday in an effort to have the statutory management lifted - a step that has already been strenuously opposed by the Government in pre-court submissions.

Impeccable sources told me the Hubbards' lawyers are confident they will win the action if it proceeds. But irrespective of their advice to Allan Hubbard on this score, he had become demoralised by the vehemence of the Crown's submissions. He had come to believe the Government would oppose all options including the proposed commercial settlement put forward by Tur Borren, revealed in today's Herald.

In June I questioned how Hubbard could fight 50 fraud charges when the state controlled his personal funds, refused to fully pay his lawyers, controlled the documents he needed for his defence and still wouldn't reveal who laid the complaint that ultimately led to all of this.

A High Court judgment issued two days before Hubbard's death underlined Russell McVeagh's proposition that the Hubbards' joint personal assets should be ring-fenced within the overall statutory management. Justice Lester Chisholm ruled the Hubbards should not be expected to meet statutory manager Grant Thornton's fees for "managing" assets. It was a significant win by Hubbard's lawyers in a disgraceful saga where justice has been repeatedly delayed by a win-at-all-costs stance from the Crown.

- NZ Herald

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Head of Business for NZME

Fran O'Sullivan has written a weekly column for the Business Herald since its inception in April 1997. In her early journalistic career she was a political journalist in Wellington and subsequently an investigative journalist who broke many major business stories including the first articles that led to the Winebox Inquiry in both NBR and the Sydney Morning Herald. She has specific expertise in relation to China where she has been a frequent visitor since the late 1990s. She is a former Editor of the National Business Review; has twice been awarded Qantas Journalist of the Year and is a multiple winner of the Westpac Financial Journalism Supreme Award.

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