The director of a deer-velvet supplement company found out he was being investigated by the Commerce Commission after Sir Colin Meads received anonymous tip-offs, a court has heard.
The case of Silberhorn (now Gateway Solutions Ltd) and Ian Carline is currently before the Dunedin District Court after the company admitted 24 charges of misleading conduct under the Fair Trading Act and one of failing to supply documents or information to investigators.
Carline - who stood as the Act Party candidate for Invercargill in the 2011 election - also pleaded guilty to the latter charge, which involved product not containing the amount of deer velvet stated on the label.
Over the last week, evidence has been called before Judge Kevin Phillips, who is tasked with unravelling a host of issues disputed by the prosecution and defence.
This morning, Carline, who is currently in the witness box, spoke about the origins of his legal woes in early 2014.
"Sir Colin Meads had received a couple of phone calls from people unknown," he said.
"That was when I realised I was on the Commerce Commission's radar."
The pair met at a cafe south of Auckland where they discussed the matters, Carline said.
As a result, he questioned the commission over the phone as to whether he was being investigated.
The query was treated as an Official Information Act request and Carline received a letter in response confirming a complaint was being assessed.
That resulted in more than 100 charges being laid but they were whittled down on the eve of an eight-week trial, which was due to start last year.
Earlier today, Carline – who was repeatedly warned by Judge Phillips to "answer the question" - spoke about the origins of the business and production of the supplements.
Some of the deer velvet was sourced directly from Sir Bob Charles' farms, he said, some from a South Island aggregator.
The specific processes behind creating the products were suppressed by the judge because of commercial sensitivity.
Defence counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr QC drew Carline's attention to a description he wrote about South Island deer velvet as "the best of the best".
"It's probably puffery and marketing but there's nothing inaccurate in there," he said.
The Commerce Commission says Carline deliberately deceived the public in relation to the labelling of the supplements. The defence case is that it was simply "corporate negligence" and that the new product, despite being incorrectly labelled, was superior to its predecessor.
Carline said his assessment of the efficacy came not from scientific studies but from using himself and others, such as Sir Colin Meads, as guinea pigs. After one such experiment, he told the court he experienced nosebleeds due to his deer-velvet consumption.
The hearing is expected to be completed this week, after which the defendants will be sentenced.
Ms Ablett-Kerr has indicated Carline will be seeking a discharge without conviction.