Property wrangle for Sept 11 couple

By Joanne Carroll

An American couple who fled the US after 9/11 are charged with trying to buy idyllic Northland property without Overseas Investment Office approval.

The couple, who have name suppression, have been accused of failing to obtain consent before buying 61ha of coastal land. The land has a capital value of $730,000.

The woman witnessed the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11 and made steps to buy land in New Zealand within months.

The couple's NZ-based company is also charged with gaining a mortgage to evade Overseas Investment regulations and holding the land until the couple were granted consent to invest.

The couple allegedly set up the company in March 2002 with the intention of circumventing investment rules. The couple, who still live in the US, did not appear in court.

Their lawyer Josh McBride told the court he was in discussions about the charges being withdrawn.

The company had gained Far North District Council resource consent to subdivide the property into 16 lots.

It was scaled down after an appeal to the Environment Court on the grounds it had outstanding natural landscape and was culturally significant to iwi.

The case was adjourned to September 26.

- Herald on Sunday

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