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Current as of 26/12/14 07:40PM NZST

Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Defamation claim against Metro magazine dismissed

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A High Court judge has dismissed a "wholly deficient" defamation claim against the publisher of Metro magazine and its editor-at-large.

The action was taken by Auckland businessman Augustine Lau who blamed Metro's Donna Chisholm for his benefits at Sky City casino being cut off.

Lau, who used to work for real estate firm Ray White, launched the proceedings following a story in Metro last November which alleged he engineered a complex system to make money for himself and Asian property investors.

The story, written by Chisholm, was promoted on the cover of Metro as "Auckland Property Scam Exposed".

In February, Lau filed a claim against ACP and Chisholm for alleged defamation because Metro used the word "scam" rather than "suspected scam".

Lau has also alleged he was defamed by Chisholm calling him an Amway "salesman".

Amway is an American company that allows third parties to buy wholesale health and beauty products and then sell them at retail prices.

Lau maintained he was not a salesman, but was an Amway "independent business owner".

As well as his defamation claims, the businessman was seeking damages from the defendants after they allegedly "intervened" in his relationship with Sky City.

Lau said he would get at least $500 a week on average "tax free spending money" from gambling at Sky City, a free car park and occasional free accommodation.

He claims these benefits were revoked when Chisholm allegedly contacted Sky City and the plaintiff said he was now restricted from going onto Sky City properties for two years.

This meant he could not no longer take his business clients there.

Together with defamation claim, Lau alleged Metro breached the Privacy Act and his "copyright" by taking a photo of him in a car park of his "training centre" without his permission.

In response, ACP and Chisholm went to the High Court last week before Associate Judge John Faire to have Lau's claims struck out.

Lau was self-represented during this hearing and said he had approached lawyers about his case but that they did not want to take it up because he was "too famous".

The defendants' lawyer, Davey Salmon, dealt with the Privacy Act complaint first and said that law did not apply to any of the activities Lau complained about in the proceedings.

Furthermore, Lau's allegation that the "copyright" of Metro's photo belonged to him was untenable, Salmon said.

The lawyer then argued that Lau's claim did not comply with the Defamation Act, that it could not properly responded to, and should be struck out.

In a decision released this afternoon, Associate Judge Faire accepted Salmon's submissions and struck out the claims:

"The conclusion I have reached is that this statement of claim is so wholly deficient and, in fact on its face, having regard to the material that has been placed before me, discloses no reasonable cause of action and should be struck out. Mr Lau did not suggest to me that he could provide an amendment that would cure the deficiencies in the statement of the claim," he said.

Earlier in his decision, Associate Judge Faire said it was "not readily apparent" how being described as a salesman could be defamatory to Lau, "even if his position was somewhat different from the classic salesman's position".

The Associate Judge awarded ACP and Chisholm costs.

- NZ Herald

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