Jared Savage

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

Hostage campaigner in court over bankruptcy breach

Mark Brewer has been bankrupt in 1997 and 2010 and faces a charge of breaching the Insolvency Act. Photo / Doug Sherring
Mark Brewer has been bankrupt in 1997 and 2010 and faces a charge of breaching the Insolvency Act. Photo / Doug Sherring

The Auckland businessman who rose to prominence when his brother-in-law was an Iraqi hostage has been charged with running a business as a bankrupt.

Mark Raymond Brewer, 38, faces one charge of breaching the Insolvency Act after an investigation by the Ministry of Economic Development.

Brewer was bankrupted in March 2010 for a debt of $114,000 and one of the Official Assignee bankruptcy conditions is to not be involved in the direct management of a company.

The ministry alleges Brewer breached his bankruptcy conditions by taking part in the control or management of a computer software company, Intervest Global (NZ).

He is due to reappear in the Auckland District Court on December 11 for a status hearing.

"A bankrupt does not need the Official Assignee's consent to be employed, only to be self-employed, employed by a relative, or to be managing a business. Brewer has not applied for any of these specific activities in regard to his current work activities," said a ministry spokesman.

Intervest Global was placed into liquidation in September last year.

Brewer became the public face of a campaign to free Harmeet Sooden, the brother of his wife Harpreet, who was held hostage by Iraqi forces for four months before his release in early 2006.

Brewer was at the centre of a political stoush when Television New Zealand agreed to pay $14,000 of airfares for Brewer and Mr Sooden's father to fly to Dubai on his release in return for preferential interview access.

The use of taxpayers' money was criticised by the National Party, then in opposition, but the deal backfired when Mr Sooden held an open press conference to speak about his ordeal.

Brewer said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade suggested the exclusive media deal but papers released by then Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said Brewer made the request.

Brewer was bankrupted in 1997 over a $32,000 debt owed to the American Express credit card company. He was automatically discharged in 2000 and the following year founded Tri Media (NZ) with his wife to import plasma televisions and other electrical goods from India.

This company folded after an exclusive distribution deal with Harvey Norman went sour in 2003 because of repeat issues with faulty products, according to the liquidation report. Harvey Norman took legal action and Tri Media was placed into liquidation by the High Court at Auckland in December 2004.

According to the liquidation report by Andrew McCullagh, Tri Media owed nearly $23,000 to the Inland Revenue Department and $2800 to Harvey Norman. Unsecured creditor claims totalled nearly $175,000.

Brewer became the director of other companies, including Tri Media International, which leased advertising billboards in Wellington.

Tri Media borrowed $150,000 from The Wellington Co to pay for a billboard - which Brewer made a personal guarantee for - and signed a contract with Syncron Investments to lease space on the side of a building it owned on Lambton Quay.

When Tri Media failed to pay the rent, Syncron terminated the lease and the Wellington Co demanded repayment of the loan.

Tri Media and Brewer took unsuccessful legal action against their former business partners and he was made bankrupt in March 2010.


Mark Brewer

• Public face of family when his wife's brother, Harmeet Sooden, was held hostage in Iraq

• Faces one charge of running a company while bankrupt

• Pleaded not guilty

• Bankrupted in 1997 and 2010

- NZ Herald

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