Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Business Insider: Fallout from falling out drags on

IRD steps in as ex-couple's dispute lingers and bank seeks property sale.
The St Heliers property has stood empty for years. Photo / Doug Sherring
The St Heliers property has stood empty for years. Photo / Doug Sherring

A company at the centre of a multimillion-dollar fight between a public relations boss and her property developer ex-husband is being wound up at the behest of Inland Revenue.

The firm, CIT Holdings, owns a 1ha group of Auckland properties that are ensnared in a persistent wrangle between Sarah Sparks and Greg Olliver, who split up in 2012.

Some of the land in the upmarket suburb of St Heliers was destined for luxury apartments, but has remained an empty eyesore for years, after the development was stymied.

One valuation - albeit some three years out of date - put the properties' worth at about $11 million, while another reckons they would sell for close to $17 million. Which figure is closer to the mark may be known sooner rather than later, with the Bank of New Zealand attempting to sell the properties to recover more than $10 million it is owed.

One of Spark's companies has caveats over all nine properties and though it had agreed to the sale process for five, it challenged the bank over the sale of the other four. Though this objection was dismissed shortly before Christmas, the company is appealing and trying to halt BNZ from taking any further action.

Enter the tax department, which this month was successful in its High Court bid to put Olliver's CIT Holdings into liquidation.

Though IRD has yet to file a claim with liquidator Vivian Fatupaito, the judgment debt in the High Court was around $550,000.

Business Insider has been told the liquidation is unlikely to stop BNZ from trying to sell the properties, but will put Inland Revenue ahead of other creditors - including a trust associated with Sparks.

If there's any money left, that is.

Sarah Sparks. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Sarah Sparks. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Guess who, don't sue

Which Auckland lawyer is accused by former clients of receiving secret commissions, knowingly receiving funds in breach of trust and misleading conduct? Even if Business Insider wanted to tell you, he couldn't - given that the man has name suppression and his identity remains a mystery to your curious correspondent.

Some of these claims - detailed in a recent anonymised court judgment - followed a company getting no return for the $1.6 million it invested variously in an immigration consultancy, a migrant pension scheme, a foreign exchange venture and a cupcake business.

The case was launched by a husband and wife with a background in equities trading and accounting. Part of the lawyers' defence is that the funds were obtained illegally and are tainted.

Although it was alleged the equities trader had laundered money in his native country and had evaded taxes, Associate Judge Roger Bell saw no evidence of this when duelling Queen's Counsel appeared in the High Court last year.

Though the lawyer and one of his trustee companies sought to sustain caveats over a property linked to his former clients, the judge dismissed this bid.

Peter Scutts. Photo / Nick Reed
Peter Scutts. Photo / Nick Reed

Out and about

Former Blues boss Peter Scutts missed only two of the Auckland rugby franchise's games while serving an eight-month home detention stint for taking kickbacks.

The ex-New Zealand Wine Company chief executive is now free to head along to Eden Park for the rest of this season - or even to any overseas fixtures - after collecting his passport from the High Court on Wednesday, when Business Insider bumped into him.

Though not lingering to chew the fat on his first day of freedom, Scutts made was less than complimentary about the Serious Fraud Office, which successfully prosecuted him last year on 16 charges of dishonestly using a document and one charge of receiving secret reward for procuring contracts.

Scutts was found to have struck an agreement in which Australia's Liquor Marketing Group would pay him A$1 for every supplied case of wine they sold, which established a secret commissions offence.

Someone breaks the law if they advise a person to enter into a contract with a third party and receive or agree to receive a gift or reward from that third party without the original person's consent or knowledge.

Though some people lose all their friends when convicted, Scutts provided references during his sentencing from luminaries such as All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry, broadcaster Murray Deaker, businessman and former Olympic rower Sir Peter Masfen and high-profile businessman Michael Stiassny.

Greg Olliver. Photo / John Stone
Greg Olliver. Photo / John Stone

Heartland haircut

The receivership of failed magazine publisher Mediaweb wrapped up this week, with Heartland Bank still significantly out of pocket.

Heartland, owed $1.1 million when Mediaweb went under in 2014, recovered $39,000 from receivers, according to their final report.

Another secured creditor, a company called Trade Publications, does not appear to have got back any of the $439,000 it was owed.

Unsecured creditors, such as contractors, are claiming about $930,000, according to the latest report from liquidator Gary Whimp, who did not return Business Insider's calls.

Mediaweb director Victor Clarke is serving a three-year jail term, for offending associated with the business and also for fleecing his own sister.

Creditors are unlikely to get any money out of him, given that he was declared bankrupt in 2014, with his de facto partner and fellow Mediaweb director Toni Myers.

- NZ Herald

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