Jared Savage

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

Liu's $100k wine news to Rick Barker

Labour challenges Chinese millionaire to provide evidence to back up auction claims

Barker says he would have known about such an 'extraordinary' price tag had it happened. Photo / HBT
Barker says he would have known about such an 'extraordinary' price tag had it happened. Photo / HBT

The Labour Cabinet minister who handed over a bottle of wine to Donghua Liu's partner at a fundraiser denied the millionaire businessman paid $100,000 for the auction prize.

Rick Barker was hosted by Liu at a lavish dinner on a cruise up the Yangtze River in 2007 and was photographed presenting Juan Zhang, who has two children with Liu, 56, with the large bottle signed by then Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Liu said he paid "close to $100,000" for the prize, according to a signed statement dated May 3, a price tag Mr Barker called "an extraordinary and eye-watering amount, one that I would recall if it happened and I don't".

Mr Barker, who was Minister of Internal Affairs at the time, added: "Had $100,000 been paid for a bottle of wine at a fundraiser that I was not at, I am certain I would have been told about it and I haven't. That figure for one item is considerably more than most fundraisers got in total."

Mr Barker said he handed over a bottle of wine at a number of Labour fundraisers.

"I can say [the one handed to Ms Zhang] wasn't a $100,000 bottle."

The Labour Party says it has found no records of money received from Liu and no one had provided evidence to contradict that.

The statement from Liu said the $100,000 bottle was purchased at a fundraiser on "3-6-2007". A Labour press statement said no fundraiser was held on June 3, 2007, but the date could be read as March 6, 2007.

Liu also said he paid at least $50,000 hosting Mr Barker on the Yangtze River trip and visited him in Hawkes Bay in 2006, dining with him at an exclusive lodge and meeting for breakfast the next morning.

He said he made a donation to Hawkes Bay Rowing, which Mr Barker was associated with.

The Labour Party yesterday challenged Mr Liu to provide evidence to back up the claims.

"We continue to call on Donghua Liu and any third parties who might have information about these allegations, including the Prime Minister, to place what they know into the public domain or to refer to the regulators," party secretary Tim Barnett said.

Liu said he would not make any further comments about political donations or swear an affidavit outlining dollar amounts.

"It's important to remember that over the years I've given equally to governments of both colours."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 27 Nov 2014 16:15:24 Processing Time: 441ms