An executive now working for The Warehouse took along a wealthy Russian entrepreneur with links to Vladimir Putin to Donald Trump's inauguration.
Timothy Kasbe, the Warehouse's chief digital officer, is tasked with helping the Kiwi retail chain combat the threat of Amazon and other international e-commerce giants.
He has helped Fortune 500 companies develop their online and digital platforms, working with the likes of Sears Holdings - the firm Warehouse Group chief executive Nick Grayston came from.
He was appointed in the first half of last year and moved to New Zealand from the United States where he held leadership roles with apparel company Gloria Jean's, including chief operating officer.
According to a Washington Post report, a wealthy Russian pharmaceutical executive named Alexey Repik said he and his wife obtained tickets for Trump's inauguration from Kasbe, who was working at Russia-based Gloria Jeans at the time.
Kasbe also donated $150,000 to Trump's inaugural committee, records obtained by the Post show.
Approached for comment, Kasbe told the Herald:
"The Inauguration Ceremony package that my wife and I purchased included six tickets and we decided to take some family friends from North Carolina and California (two of whom were Alexey Repik and his wife Polina)."
"While in Washington we attended the, very wet and cold, Inauguration Ceremony and some of the Inauguration Balls. We also visited the Washington Post office with a former employee of mine, and current CIO of the Washington Post, Shailesh Prakash," he said.
Throughout his trip to the United States, the Washington Post reports, Repik had prime access. He wrote on Facebook that he got close enough to the president-elect at a pre-inaugural event to "check the handshake strength of Donald Trump".
That event, the Herald understands, was not associated with the inauguration tickets obtained by Kasbe.
Alexey Repik also documented his up-close access, posting photos on Facebook of the president-elect's, son Eric Trump, incoming Vice President Mike Pence and incoming Trump chief-of-staff Reince Priebus.
The attendance of members of Russia's elite at Trump's inauguration was evidence of the high anticipation in Moscow for a thaw in US-Russia relations following a campaign in which Trump stunned US foreign-policy experts by repeatedly praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As questions about Russia's interference in the 2016 election were beginning to percolate publicly, prominent business leaders and activists from the country attended inaugural festivities, mingling at balls and receptions - at times in proximity to key US political officials.
The Washington Post identified at least half a dozen politically-connected Russians who were in Washington on Inauguration Day - including some whose presence has not been previously reported.
Repik, whose family often stays in a home in a posh San Francisco neighbourhood, founded the large Russian pharmaceutical company R-Pharm, which has contracts with numerous Russian hospitals, including state-owned facilities.
Repik also heads an advocacy group called Business Russia, as well as another business council that encourages economic ties between Russia and Japan.
In those roles, Repik said, he has met several times with Putin at public events to discuss the business climate and foreign relations. They had a one-on-one meeting publicised by the Kremlin in June 2016 and met again when Putin made an appearance at an October 2016 conference hosted by Repik's advocacy group.
In 2011, the Russian business publication Vedomosti asked Repik about rumours that he had ties to the FSB, the Russian intelligence service that succeeded the KGB. Repik replied: "It's nice to feel like a simpleton who has the FSB behind him."
Repik told The Post that such comments were "jokes" and that he has "zero" relationship with Russia's security and intelligence services.
- Additional reporting from the Washington Post