'Unremorseful' Ngatata Love jailed for 2.5 years

Sir Ngatata Love. Photo / File
Sir Ngatata Love. Photo / File

Sir Ngatata Love could be stripped of his knighthood after being sentenced to jail for obtaining property by deception.

Love was sentenced to two years and six months' imprisonment for the crime this afternoon.

Prime Minister John Key will now be tasked with deciding whether Love should retain his knighthood.

A spokeswoman for Key said this afternoon that the Prime Minister would not comment on the case until the window for an appeal had closed.

"It would not be appropriate for the Prime Minister to comment at this stage," the spokeswoman said.

"The Prime Minister will wait till any appeal period has expired before he considers any question of forfeiture of honours."

Love's lawyer has already indicated he will appeal the sentence.

Love was made a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009, for services to Maori.

When knighthoods were restored by the National-led Government, he accepted the opportunity to become a "Sir".

It is the second time in three years that Key has had to consider whether a knight should hold on to their title.

In 2013, Key decided that Sir Douglas Graham should retain his knighthood after he was found guilty of making false statements in a company prospectus.

Sir Douglas, a former Treaty Negotiations Minister, was sentenced to 300 hours' community service for misleading investors while a director at Lombard Finance.

Key said at the time that on the rare occasions that honours had been cancelled, it was because the actions which led to the stripping of the title were in the same field in which the honour was awarded.

Sir Douglas was made a knight for his leadership in Treaty settlements, which was unrelated to his crime.

Justice Graham Lang handed down his sentence to Love in the High Court in Wellington.

Last month Love was found guilty of obtaining property by deception.

When Love was chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust between 2006 and 2007, he hid a $3 million payment, part of which was transferred to his partner's company.

Justice Lang says there was no formal apology from Love and no sign of remorse for what he did.

He revealed in his findings after the trial that he believed Love's actions to be deceptive and dishonest.

"I am satisfied that Dr Love knew about all of those transactions and indeed that he was instrumental certainly in arranging the early transfers involving Pipitea Street Developments."

Justice Lang said that in failing to tell his fellow trustees about the $3m payment Love omitted to disclose information that he was duty-bound to reveal.

He said Love had "been at pains" to ensure the proposal for the money to be paid to PSD remained secret.

"The significance of the information that Dr Love omitted to disclose combined with the circumstances in which the omission occurred means it must have been deliberate," Justice Lang said.

Love's partner Lorraine Skiffington was also charged but has been granted a permanent stay due to her ill health, while his son, Matene Love, had already pleaded guilty to accepting a secret commission.

Love's sentencing was delayed yesterday after a last-minute submission from the defence with concerns for Love's health.

Today Love has addressed the court ahead of Justice Lang handing down his sentence.

Serious Fraud Office director Julie Read said Sir Ngatata's "influence was once immense".

"The sentence imposed today reflects a gross abuse of trust. By Sir Ngatata Love's actions, he deceived his fellow trustees and gained personally at the expense of the Wellington Tenths beneficiaries, whose interests he was supposed to protect," Read said.

"It is a sad day for his iwi and for those who placed their confidence in him as a respected Maori leader and a champion of Maori development. It also serves as a reminder that the law applies to everyone. The SFO will continue to pursue those who abuse their positions of trust for personal gain, regardless of their status in the community."

- Newstalk ZB

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