Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Williamson forced into embarrassing backdown

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson. Photo / Wayne Drought
Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson. Photo / Wayne Drought

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson has been forced into an embarrassing backdown over his statements to Parliament this week about failed Crafar farms bidders Jack Chen and May Wang.

Mr Chen and Ms Wang's bid to buy 16 of the Crafar farms was blocked by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) last year on the grounds they did not meet the good character test required by law. However, Ms Wang had already bought four other farms from Crafar family interests in early 2010 without (OIO) approval.

OIO efforts to force her to sell the farms were stymied when Hong Kong authorities brought fraud and corruption charges against her and Mr Chen, and froze their assets including the farms.

Under pressure from NZ First Leader Winston Peters this week, Mr Williamson told Parliament the Hong Kong legal action was now completed and the OIO was moving to force the pair to sell the farms.

This afternoon however, Mr Williamson admitted he had got it wrong and was informed this morning the case against the pair in Hong Kong was continuing.

Mr Williamson later told the Herald officials are working with their Hong Kong counterparts to allow the sale of the farms before the case is complete.

Ms Wang and Mr Chen will not face charges in New Zealand for breaching the Overseas Investment Act by purchasing the farms. But Mr Williamson said he expected they would suffer significant financial loss in terms of legal fees and also on the sale of the farms into a much softer market than when they were purchased.

The Herald understands the case against Ms Wang and Mr Chen in Hong Kong has been adjourned until next month when a date will be set for a full trial on fraud charges.

- NZ Herald

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