Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Russian let off drink-drive count

Mikhail Khimich had his charge dropped. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Mikhail Khimich had his charge dropped. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

A Russian multi-millionaire seeking New Zealand citizenship had a drink-driving charge dropped after his arrest was lost in translation.

Waiwera Water owner Mikhail Khimich blew nearly 1 and a half times over the limit when his Porsche was stopped for speeding on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, court papers show.

But Judge Pippa Sinclair threw the case out after ruling police had failed to inform Khimich of his rights because of language difficulties.

Khimich told the Herald on Sunday he regretted the incident and was taking driving lessons to improve. The officer stopped Khimich on November 8 last year and performed a breath test after smelling alcohol on his breath. The property and minerals baron was taken back to the harbour bridge police station for a second evidential breath test.

The officer noted Khimich's difficulty in understanding him, and his partner made inquiries to find a translator.

In the meantime, Khimich called his secretary in Russia and she translated over loudspeaker as the officer read him his rights.

There was a dispute over how the phone call ended.

According to the court documents, Khimich's lawyer John Clearwater claimed in court his cellphone had gone flat during the conversation with the secretary and he had asked for a charger. This claim was disputed by the officer.

The officer then tried to simplify the language used while reading Khimich his rights, but failed to notify the Russian that the 577 reading of micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath could be used against him as evidence.

The limit is 400 mcg per litre of breath but that is set to drop to 250mcg this year.

At a hearing at the North Shore District Court on March 12, Judge Sinclair told Khimich he was not fully informed of his rights despite signing the Bill of Rights document and failing to inform the officer that he did not understand.

She concluded the breath test was improperly obtained and could not be used.

Khimich told the Herald on Sunday in a statement released through his lawyers he took full responsibility for the incident.

"I deeply regret the whole incident and I am determined to contribute positively to New Zealand as a law-abiding, productive member of New Zealand society.

"To avoid such an incident ever occurring again, I am currently taking driving lessons so as to improve my driving skills."

If he had been convicted, Khimich may have been in breach of his citizenship and Overseas Investment Office requirements, which state he must continue to be of good character.

The Herald on Sunday revealed in February how an employee of Khimich's, former KGB bioterrorism expert Alexander Kouzminov, escaped conviction despite testing more than twice the legal drink-drive limit.

His conviction was overturned after his lawyer Stuart Blake argued he would lose the right to travel overseas as a consultant for several foreign intelligence agencies.

- Herald on Sunday

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