Key denies knowledge of shares in vineyard

By Adam Bennett

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister John Key yesterday continued to stonewall Labour's bid to haul him before Parliament's privileges committee over alleged conflicts of interest by maintaining he is oblivious to how his money is invested.

Labour MP Pete Hodgson has laid a complaint with the Speaker over an alleged breach of Parliament's Standing Orders by Mr Key.

In response to a question in the House from Mr Hodgson this week, Mr Key confirmed he had put "certain assets into a blind trust that is so blind I haven't a clue what's in it".

Mr Hodgson said Mr Key misled the House because his Aldgate Trust - set up after his election victory in 2008 to manage some of his estimated $50 million in assets - was not "blind" at all.

Blind trusts are recommended in the Cabinet Manual as a way for ministers to avoid conflicts of interest.

Mr Hodgson said "this blind trust has a parallel company which John Key, so long as he knows the name of the company, can check out".

The company referred to is Whitechapel Ltd. Simple Companies Office searches reveal it was set up a week after Mr Key became Prime Minister and that he and his wife, Bronagh, sold their shares in Highwater Vineyard Ltd, Earl of Auckland Ltd and Dairy Investment Fund Ltd to the company shortly after. Whitechapel still owns the shares.

But Mr Key - since Aldgate was formed - has been on the record as saying he owns part of a vineyard. Yesterday he told reporters he had "no clue what's in my blind trust".

He also denied any knowledge of Whitechapel and said he had never received any reports or any other documentation regarding the company.

Mr Key also said he was not familiar with the names of several other shareholders in Highwater who own big supermarkets which form part of the giant Foodstuffs NZ co-operative.

Meanwhile, in the House yesterday, Mr Hodgson questioned Justice Minister Simon Power over the Government's alcohol law reform agenda and whether he had consulted Foodstuffs on the issue.

Mr Power confirmed Foodstuffs was among a number of groups consulted but he was not aware Foodstuffs' Auckland chairman was also a shareholder in the Prime Minister's vineyard.

Asked yesterday if his ownership of a vineyard might cloud his judgment on alcohol reform issues, Mr Key said he "wouldn't know" he owned shares in the business.

- NZ Herald

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