Jared Savage

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

The colourful life and times of Luigi Wewege

He was the new arrival with an impressive CV who burst onto the political scene hoping for a future with the National Party. But his naked ambition and role in the Len Brown infidelity scandal have left him high and dry

Prime Minister John Key with Luigi Wewege.
Prime Minister John Key with Luigi Wewege.

Here's Luigi Wewege with John Key. And Cabinet ministers Judith Collins, Murray McCully and Maurice Williamson, as well as a few other National MPs. There are some photographs of the dashing Mr Wewege in a tuxedo at the Young Nats' ball last year.

His arm around Sam Johnson, the Christchurch student who organised a volunteer clean-up of the city after the earthquake and the 2012 Young New Zealander of the Year. Many photos with various foreign dignitaries, and even former Labour leader David Shearer at Eden Park. "He's actually a fairly personable chap!" Mr Wewege remarks on Facebook.

Then there are photos with Len Brown and the mayor's rival John Palino - for whom Mr Wewege worked during the local body elections - and Bevan Chuang.

Described as affable, charming and a smooth networker who was always "keen for a photo opportunity with anyone important", Mr Wewege was a frequent face in Auckland political circles who held high hopes of a future in the National Party.

A South African of Italian heritage, he moved to New Zealand in 2011, having studied in the United States and Italy and worked in Hungary. He quickly began moving in Auckland political circles.

Mr Wewege was at so many functions for the Young Nats that many members were under the impression that he was a member of the youth wing - a claim rejected by president Sean Topham.

"I do know he's been to a handful of events organised by the Young Nats before, but my understanding is they were pretty open [so] not exclusive to members."

Mr Wewege is a member of the National Party, which has quickly tried to distance itself from him. He had hoped for a bright future in the organisation and once wrote that the Prime Minister was his role model.

He also attended several candidate training camps run by Simon Lusk, a campaign strategist for right-wing political aspirants, and sources say he was aiming to become a political figure in the National Party, possibly as a MP.

Mr Wewege also volunteered for Simon O'Connor, the National MP for Tamaki, who said: "I do not know Mr Wewege well, but I have bumped into him at the odd National Party event around Auckland."

Mr O'Connor said Mr Wewege had never held office in the Tamaki branch but attended some meetings in 2012 and also volunteered to help to organise some "cottage" [home-based] meetings.

"This year, I am told that Mr Wewege informed the branch he would no longer be able to assist them due to work commitments."

The 28-year-old has kept a low profile since the Herald revealed his role in the scandal involving Mayor Brown.

He has not been at his Parnell flat, or answered phone messages, leading to speculation he planned to leave the country. Other acquaintances suggested he was staying with friends, who are members of the Young Nats, in Auckland; another thought he tried to seek sanctuary in the Hawkes Bay with Mr Lusk.

"Things don't look too flash for Luigi," said a National Party source.

A few hours after news of Mr Brown's two-year affair broke on the Whale Oil blog, Mr Wewege flatly denied to the Herald that he was in a casual relationship with Ms Chuang, the mayor's mistress.

The following day he repeated there was "nothing whatsoever" of a romantic nature but messages between the pair indicated they were in a sexual relationship - and Mr Wewege wanted her to gather evidence of the affair, including giving her a recording device, to ruin Mr Brown's reputation.

"I can't get anything from Len. Text, phone call, nothing. So please stop asking and giving me pressure," Ms Chuang wrote on August 28.

The pair exchanged a few more messages before Mr Wewege wrote: "I literally work 24/7 and something small you know you can do to change my life and you won't do it ... is just a [shred] of evidence and I promise you are fully protected."

There were dozens of similar messages. Another sent by Ms Chuang said Mr Wewege wanted a "Weiner story", a reference to how Anthony Weiner's hopes of winning the New York mayoralty were crippled by his "sexting".

Mr Wewege also approached Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater, who sent freelance journalist Stephen Cook to meet Ms Chuang and corroborate the claims.

But she refused to hand over any text messages or swear an affidavit to back up her claims, until her world began "falling apart" after the election on October 12 when she failed to win a seat on the Albert-Eden Local Board.

The rest is history, but one acquaintance of Mr Wewege said the saga followed a pattern of behaviour, where he had "worked" his way into political circles through relationships with women.

"It is our honest opinion that Wewege seemed to be a very desperate kid, who has now made the headlines for all the wrong reasons," said the acquaintance.

At one point, he was dating a staffer of Nikki Kaye, MP for Auckland Central, and was previously in a relationship with Jana Bobosikova, the daughter of a politician in the Czech Republic with the same name.

Jana Bobosikova, the elder, is a former member of the European Parliament, the leader of a Czech political party and ran for President this year. She finished ninth with 2.4 per cent of the vote - more than 123,000 votes.

Her daughter is pictured with Mr Wewege at a number of spots around Europe in May 2012, including Zurich in Switzerland and Lindau in Germany.

The revelations of a link to the Palino campaign team meant the story quickly diverged into two paths. On one hand, the behaviour of Mr Brown in cheating on his wife, with sexual liaisons on council property, and providing Ms Chuang with a reference for a job at the council-run Auckland Art Gallery.

On the other, which of the mayor's right-wing opponents were involved in the political smear? Mr Palino admitted meeting Ms Chuang in a Mission Bay carpark to discuss threatening text messages they received, but denied knowledge of the affair, as did campaign manager John Slater.

Cameron Slater, his son, says he did not tell his father or Mr Palino or Cameron Brewer - who joined the Palino campaign during the election period - about the allegations he was trying to prove. However, National MPs were gossiping about a brewing scandal at least a week before the affair became public. Mr Brown admitted his infidelity to his wife after his team was tipped off by Auckland councillor Penny Webster, who had been chatting with Mark Mitchell, MP for Rodney.

Only Mr Wewege can confirm whom he told and when, possibly to impress those on the right of the political spectrum. His messages to Ms Chuang left some members of the Young Nats unimpressed, with one labelling them "emotional abuse".

"It's important that we speak out against bullying those you're in an intimate relationship with for personal political gain," Brittany Raleigh, the chairwoman of the Young Nats' northern region, wrote on Facebook. "Especially within our own organisation."

CV Luigi Wewege

South African of Italian heritage, aged 28.

2006-2009
Bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Missouri, United States.

2009-2010
Master of business administration degree from the School of Management, Trieste, Italy.

2010-11
Consultant at the Braintrust Network in Budapest, Hungary, where he came up with the idea for a German pie restaurant chain.

2011
Moved to New Zealand, where he started working as a commercial manager for New Zealand Investor magazine.

2012-2013
Worked at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, a council-controlled organisation, on feasibility projects.

2013
Worked at LexisNexis as a commercial adviser on a short-term contract.

• Worked on John Palino's mayoral campaign.

• Named by Washington-based Diplomatic Courier magazine last month as one of the top 99 foreign policy professionals under 33, because of his efforts to "foster intellectual dialogue and relationships between New Zealand youth and the world decision-makers of today and tomorrow''. Profile pulled after the editor became concerned about his role in the Auckland mayoral sex scandal.

- NZ Herald

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