Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Labour links to Yan emerge in court

Millionaire businessman Yong Ming Yan. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Millionaire businessman Yong Ming Yan. Photo / Brett Phibbs

More links have emerged between the Labour Party and a millionaire businessman facing immigration and citizenship charges as David Shearer accepted the word of a frontbench MP that he did nothing wrong.

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.

The wealthy Chinese-born immigrant 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.

His lawyer David Jones, QC, yesterday called Shane Phillips to evidence in his defence.

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

He chatted with Yan for no more than 15 minutes and later invited him to join other guests for dinner and drinks.

A few weeks later, Mr Phillips met Yan and his partner Vienna Yu at their penthouse apartment in the Metropolis tower, before having dinner together at a restaurant.

At that meal, the topic of citizenship was discussed and Mr Phillips offered to help Yan obtain citizenship for a fee of $10,000 - half to be paid as a deposit. Asked by David Jones why he offered to help, Mr Phillips said Yan was a "man of success".

"I thought, down the line, I could form a working relationship with him."

Mr Phillips then organised a trip to visit vineyards in the Hawke's Bay with Yan and their partners to explore the possibility of exporting New Zealand wine to China.

Mr Phillips then arranged a meeting with Rick Barker, a Labour Party MP and the then Minister of Internal Affairs. Mr Phillips said there was no link between the meeting with Mr Barker and Yan's bid.

Mr Phillips described Mr Barker as a "long-term work colleague" and the meeting was about Yan potentially investing in the region.

Mr Phillips later filled out Yan's citizenship application form with the help of his now wife, because his own handwriting is "appalling". His evidence that he completed the form, and not Yan, is crucial to the defence case that Yan never intended to mislead authorities.

"The accused did not have any dishonest intent at any stage," David Jones told Justice Timothy Brewer.

Former Labour MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Dover Samuels is also a friend of Yan and wrote in support of his application, along with National Party MP Pansy Wong.

Labour and National each acknowledged receiving donations of $5000 from him before the 2008 election. Mr Phillips is also the brother of Daniel Phillips, who was the private secretary for former Cabinet Minister Shane Jones.

The ministerial decision on Yan's citizenship was deferred from Rick Barker to Shane Jones, who was the associate Immigration Minister, because of a "real or perceived conflict of interest".

Shane Jones then approved the citizenship application against the advice of DIA officials, who said Yan did not meet the good character test because of his two identities.

Last week, the High Court heard evidence from case officer Johannes Gambo who told the court that Yan boasted that he had politician friends who would ensure he was granted citizenship.

When told he would not receive citizenship, Yan said he was 99 per cent sure he would, according to Mr Gambo.

The trial ended yesterday with Justice Brewer to issue a ruling on Thursday in a reserved decision.

- NZ Herald

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