Authorities managing the bankruptcy estate of a businesswoman facing bribery charges in Hong Kong have gone to the High Court to get access to records held by a downtown Auckland law firm.
May Wang - also known as May Hao - is best known here as a failed bidder for the Crafar farms, which were eventually bought by China's Shanghai Pengxin for a sum thought to be slightly more than $200 million.
In 2010 Wang was bankrupted, owing more than $20 million, and the following year Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption charged her and former executive director of Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings, Jack Chen, with conspiracy to defraud.
It is alleged the pair conspired to defraud the Hong Kong-listed Natural Dairy by dishonestly inducing the company to buy the Crafar farms at an inflated price.
A company associated with Wang, UBNZ Asset Holdings, was to purchase the farms and Natural Dairy was then to acquire that company's share capital for $500 million.
It is alleged the pair conspired to offer two Auckland properties and more than HK$73 million ($11.8 million) to Chen as rewards for him procuring Natural Dairy to buy UBNZ.
Chen and Wang are also accused of arranging false accounting records, overstating the profit of the farms by $50 million. It is asserted that Chen gained $23.5 million from these activities and Wang $201.6 million.
Both are believed to be overseas and their trial in Hong Kong is expected to take place in October.
Although Wang was discharged from bankruptcy almost a year ago, the Official Assignee is yet to distribute money from her estate.
It is understood there could be competing claims for the money.
The OA, which manages all personal insolvencies, intends to ask the High Court for directions about the distribution, and ahead of this has applied for access to records held by Auckland law firm Knight Coldicutt.
The information in question belongs to Natural Dairy, whose lawyer told the High Court at Auckland last week that the application may be opposed.
Knight Coldicutt was not represented during last week's brief hearing. The firm's director, Nick Cross, later told the Herald it would abide by the court's decision.
The matter is due to come back before a judge next month.