Business Editor for the NZ Herald

SFO wine boss kick-back case goes to High Court

Peter Scutts shown here in a file photo from 2008. Photo / Tim Cuff
Peter Scutts shown here in a file photo from 2008. Photo / Tim Cuff

The Serious Fraud Office case against Former New Zealand Wine Company chief executive Peter Scutts will be heard in the High Court and possibly as early as October, says his Queen's Counsel.

Scutts, in his late 50s, has been charged with 16 Crimes Act charges of dishonestly using a document and one Secret Commission Act charge of receiving secret reward for procuring contracts, the SFO said last year.

"In March 2011, NZWC entered into an arrangement to supply wine to an Australian based wine wholesaler. SFO alleges that while in the role of CEO for the NZWC, Mr Scutts also received payments from the same wholesaler based on the volume of wine sold by NZWC. SFO alleges that the NZWC Board had no knowledge of Mr Scutt's receipt of their fees. The payments invoiced amount to approximately NZ$64,000," the SFO said in September last year.

NZ Wine Company, whose stable included Grove Mill, Sanctuary and Frog Haven brands, merged with Foley Family Wines in September 2012 after shareholders agreed to California-based billionaire Bill Foley taking an 80 per cent stake in the company.

The Queen's Counsel representing Scutts, John Billington, this morning applied to transfer the case from the District Court to the High Court at Auckland.

Billington told the Herald after the hearing that the application before Justice Geoffrey Venning - which SFO opposed - was successful.

"It's being transferred to the High Court," he said.

Billington said the trial was likely to go ahead in October or November.

additional reporting: BusinessDesk

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