David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Party aide seeks $6000 in gang case

Sharples stands by aide who promised to help in return for money

Martin Cooper has Peta Sharples' support for his actions over a Black Power HQ. Photo / Richard Robinson
Martin Cooper has Peta Sharples' support for his actions over a Black Power HQ. Photo / Richard Robinson

A key aide to a Government minister asked for money in an email that also discussed putting "political pressure" on an issue.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples' electorate manager Martin Cooper wrote to a local property owner that he wanted money, then spoke of contacting a Government minister.

It led to a call for police to become involved after details were passed to Local Government Minister Rodney Hide.

Cooper named Hide as one of the people he planned to write to as part of a campaign of "political pressure".

"I've never seen a more serious situation with anyone employed by Parliamentary Service," Hide said.

Cooper could not be reached for comment but last night had full support from Sharples.

The MP was approached with the emails but refused to read them. "I support Martin 100 per cent.

He's a leader among his people," he said.

Emails obtained by the Herald on Sunday showed Cooper was hired to help with the sale of the former headquarters of the Auckland chapter of the Black Power gang.

Cooper was once a Black Power member.

The Crown seized the building after a $1.5 million drug bust and sold it to a property owner who hoped to redevelop it. Last year Black Power members moved back in and the owner said they referred him to Cooper.

The owner's diary notes recorded that in January last year, a senior Black Power member told him to deal with Cooper to arrange for the gang to buy the property. He did, and found Cooper was also willing to support him in resolving a wrangle with the council over permits.

On March 12, Cooper and Sharples wrote on Maori Party letterhead paper supporting the owner in his dispute with the council.

The owner had a diary note from March 19 about a meeting with Cooper. The note recorded the pair reached an agreement at the meeting for Cooper to be paid $5000 for work relating to the building.

An email to Cooper on April 13 set out the owner's understanding the $5000 was for helping arrange the sale of the building to Black Power. It stated: "I have paid through the $2k today". He said he would pay the additional $3000 when the property was sold.

Cooper replied saying: "Can you please pay another $1000 towards the car". He then detailed his plans to send emails supporting the owner's case to Hide, former Auckland mayor John Banks and the manager of a department at the former Auckland City Council.

"Political pressure will hopefully place the council into submission where they will be ordered to shut it down," Cooper wrote. "Given it is election year for the Super City, now they surely don't want this to become a council or even a political issue."

The owner said he initially refused, then agreed to pay. Cooper provided him with a bank account number.

The building owner said he did not want to pay the money but believed it would help him sell the building.

He heard nothing from Cooper after paying the money.

In April this year, the owner turned to John Key for help. He wrote: "Black Power seizing back the property makes a mockery" of seizing assets from criminals.

He asked the Government to buy back the building, and included information about Cooper receiving cash.

An email back said the information would be sent to Justice Minister Simon Power's office. A spokesman for Power's office said it had no record of receiving the information. Key's office did not respond to calls for comment by deadline.

ORIGINAL PLAN WAS TO BULLDOZE GANG HQ

The confiscated Mt Wellington Black Power headquarters were not bulldozed because doing so would be an "emotional response".

Justice Minister Simon Power was told officials planned to demolish the gang pad seized in a $1.5m cannabis bust.

Documents show he was also told it was unlikely anyone would buy the building. "It is therefore proposed that ... any buildings on the property be demolished and that the bare land be sold or gifted to the local council."

Power signed off on the proposal. But the Official Assignee Guy Sayers sold the building to a new owner who is considering selling it back to the gang.

Sayers told the Herald on Sunday he had new legal advice after Power had signed off on the plan. That advice was it would be unfair to demolish it.

"My legal opinion was that we should put the property to the market so we could be seen to be neutral in the process. Going in there with a bulldozer is not a neutral action."

He said there was no basis "in law" for bulldozing the headquarters, and the document signed by Power was a proposal.

But according to a letter written by Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Lynch, officer in charge of South Auckland's organised crime fighting team, police were not told about the sale of the property.

He said there was "genuine fears for the safety of any person who bought or occupied the property without Black Power approval".

- Herald on Sunday

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