Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Collins targeted in Parliament over links with businessman

The Justice Minister faced media yesterday in Parliament after revealing she had dinner with the head of Oravida while in China last year. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Justice Minister faced media yesterday in Parliament after revealing she had dinner with the head of Oravida while in China last year. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Embattled Justice Minister Judith Collins appeared to be close to tears this afternoon after she was targeted by the Opposition over her links with wealthy businessman Deyi Shi.

Ms Collins was yesterday facing Opposition claims she lobbied a senior Chinese border control official on behalf of Mr Shi's company milk exporter Oravida during a dinner in Beijing in the wake of the Fonterra botulism scare.

However on the way into Parliament this afternoon Ms Collins appeared to become distraught when asked by reporters about suggestions from Labour MP Shane Jones that she had been staying at Mr Shi's home - the luxury Paritai Drive mansion originally built for Mark Hotchin.

"I'm really disgusted actually that Shane would do that. It's actually really hurtful. I've been to the home that Mr Shi has bought on many occasions because he is a close personal friend and he's away a lot but I've never lived there.

"I don't stay there, I've been there. It's because it's a very place to go and look at and I'm sure that if he wanted to he could sell tickets for people to go and have a look at it.

"I never put the boot into Shane and yet he's gone and done that. That's disgusting.

While she said Mr Jones' comments were "actually very defamatory"' she would not be taking legal action against him.

"Of course not, silly old Shane. No one takes any notice of what he says."

Prime Minister John Key gave the high flying cabinet minister a stern warning yesterday after it emerged she failed to tell him and the public about the dinner last year attended by her close friends and Oravida bosses Stone Shi and Julia Xu and the Chinese official.

Ms Collins maintains Oravida' business was not discussed at the dinner. However NZ First Leader Winston Peters challenged that in Parliament this afternoon.

"Following the botulism scare of last year is it not a fact that her visit to Oravida was predominantly access and customs clearance for Oravida products in the Chinese market, and that is the real reason why a People's Republic of China border official was present at that dinner?"

Ms Collins denied that and said her senior adviser Margaret Malcolm who was also present at the dinner would confirm Oravida's business was not discussed, which is exactly what Ms Malcolm did when contacted by the Herald this afternoon.

Earlier this afternoon Ms Collins refused to name the Chinese border control official or say which agency they worked for, and indicated she was being kept on a short leash by the Prime Minister.

"I think you should talk to the Prime Minister's office because I am giving you the words that I have been told that I should say otherwise there could be an issue with China."

- NZ Herald

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