Millionaire's immigration trial: Political connection revealed

By Edward Gay

Businessman William Yan is on trial in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Businessman William Yan is on trial in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The man who completed a citizenship form for a millionaire businessman facing immigration charges worked as a fundraiser for the Labour Party and introduced the accused to former Labour Minister Rick Barker.

William Yan - also known as Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan - is on trial in the High Court at Auckland after pleading not guilty to four charges relating to false declarations on immigration papers in 2001 and 2002 and one of using false written statements to get citizenship.

In his opening for the defence today, Yan's lawyer David Jones QC said his client never intended to mislead authorities and did not complete many of the forms.

"The accused did not have any dishonest intent at any stage.''

Yan, a wealthy businessman, was granted New Zealand citizenship in August 2008 under the name Yang Liu, despite advice from Department of Internal Affairs officials that he did not meet the good character test.

Just days later he changed his name to William Yan, the name he is being prosecuted under.

Shane Phillips, also known as Shane Te Pou, told the court today he met Yan at a Labour fundraiser in Auckland's Viaduct in March 2005 that he helped organise.

He said he had a "fleeting conversation'' with Yan and later invited him back to a house for dinner and drinks with a handful of others.

"He, obviously to me, had a passion about politics ... particularly, to me, that we were able to vote.''

He said he saw Yan as a "man of success'' after visiting his appartment in the upmarket Metropolis building on Auckland's High St.

Mr Phillips said he and Yan flew to Hawkes Bay to look at the possibility of exporting New Zealand wine to China.

"I thought: `What would be helpful is if he looked for investment in the viticulture industry and we reached an agreement that I would be his agent.

During their visit to the Bay, Mr Phillips called Rick Barker to their accommodation at Craggy Range. Mr Barker was Minister of Internal Affairs at the time.

Mr Phillips said Mr Barker was a "long-term work colleague'' and there was no link between seeing Mr Barker and Yan's citizenship status.

"I hadn't seen him for a while and I wanted to catch up.''

Mr Phillips later filled out Yan's citizen application form. He told the court he did not include Yan's other names because he only knew him as "Bill''.

He also wrote "n/a'' in the section that asked about legal investigations.

Mr Phillips confirmed to Yan's lawyer, David Jones QC, that he had "based that on an assumption'' and had not asked Yan.

Under cross-examination from Crown prosecutor David Johnstone, Mr Phillips said he began discussing the possibility of Yan getting citizenship after a dinner at one of Auckland's top restaurants , The Grove.

Mr Phillips said Yan paid for the meal and the pair agreed that Mr Phillips woudld do some "research''.

He said he got his information from the citizenship form from Yan, two of Yan's passports and information from Yan's partner.

Mr Phillips denied ever checking the information on the form with Yan.

The lawyers for both sides are due to sum up their cases this afternoon.

- NZ Herald

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