Politician aided with purchase of $4m paradise

By Jonathan Milne, Amy Maas

The Labour leader dodged questions about helping his rich friend and donor buy an idyllic holiday home

The Ti Point house overlooks John Key's home. Photo / Doug Sherring
The Ti Point house overlooks John Key's home. Photo / Doug Sherring

Labour leader David Cunliffe helped with the purchase of a $4 million beach retreat for a wealthy businessman who later secretly donated to the MP's leadership campaign.

When the Herald on Sunday asked Cunliffe two weeks ago about the four-bedroom, 200sqm house at Ti Point, overlooking the Omaha holiday home of Prime Minister John Key, he said he had nothing to do with the sale.

Cunliffe said he had no beneficial interest in the property, and his wife Karen had simply played a legal role with the trustee company which bought the property.

If he was not telling the truth, Cunliffe said, "you can have my testicles for garters".

This week, the Herald on Sunday learned the new owner of the 19ha property is Perry Keenan, a Chicago-based New Zealand businessman who secretly helped fund Cunliffe's Labour Party leadership campaign.

Keenan's ownership is concealed by the trustee arrangement.

Real estate agent Lorraine Mildon said Cunliffe had been involved in the purchase, and had visited the property.

Cunliffe returned to the property shortly before Waitangi Day last year, she said, on behalf of a friend who was in America.

"He didn't buy it. His friend did. He came and looked at it on behalf of his friend but he didn't sign the agreement."

Neighbour Jan Haslam said she believed Cunliffe had been to visit the property. "Perry Keenan is a businessman who lives in Chicago," she said. "He's a great mate of David. He comes in to see me and he keeps name-dropping Cunliffe."

This week, Cunliffe apologised to the Labour caucus for a "lapse of judgment" after the Herald revealed that he had arranged for a trust to accept $17,800 in contributions from five unnamed donors, including Keenan.

This weekend, Cunliffe told the Herald on Sunday that he and Keenan had been "long-standing personal friends" since working together at Boston Consulting Group in Auckland in the early 1990s. He and Keenan visited the property at 41 Tairere Rd on Ti Point when it was on the market last summer.

Cunliffe acknowledged making two visits, though he could not initially recall how many, when they were, or whether Keenan was there.

Cunliffe said he first visited with Keenan, who wanted to buy the property, but the gate was locked. "We weren't able to get on to the property."

Keenan returned to the US, but Cunliffe went back to Ti Point with his wife and children to inspect the house.

In February last year, Keenan bought the house for $3.83 million through Tokotoru Tamariki Trustee Ltd, run from the offices of his law firm, Glaister Ennor.

Cunliffe said his wife Karen Price, who works for law firm Chancery Green, acted for Keenan in the transaction.

"It's important to reiterate that the visits I made to that property were in the summer of early 2013, before the leadership race was even considered a possibility, six months before.

"Indeed, I would have been probably quite surprised at that time to have considered it possible that there would be a leadership race in 2013."

Cunliffe did not disclose his visits when the Herald on Sunday inquired about it on February 22. This weekend, he said he had checked his recording of the interview and he had truthfully answered questions about any beneficial ownership of the property. "If you had asked me whether I had visited the property, then my answer would have been yes," Cunliffe said.


- with John Weekes

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 20 Aug 2014 18:20:22 Processing Time: 1730ms