NBR v SFO

October 20th, 2010 at 2:12 pm by David Farrar

The NBR reports:

The Serious Fraud Office served the notice on yesterday, demanding documents and audio tapes relating to the paper’s investigation of ’s dealings over Auckland’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. The deadline for delivery was 9am today.

The Serious Fraud Act Section 5 notice requires NBR editor-in-chief Nevil Gibson to hand over all written and audio notes relating to Mr Nippert’s investigation of the Hyatt Regency, specifically the NBR exclusive story of how one-time meatworker Peter Symes came to own the hotel.

The NBR story by Nippert may be what led the to focus on SCF. It was an excellent story about how the Hyatt in Auckland was officially owned by a retried freezing worker.

The SFO has incredible powers to demand documents. They were given them to use against the bad guys doing the fraud, not against the good guys who helped expose the alleged fraud.

A polite request to NBR for information would be more productive than a section 5 notice.

So far NBR has decided to risk adverse legal consequences:

The National Business Review is in a standoff with the Serious Fraud Office after the SFO this morning refused an invitation by NBR publisher to attend a meeting with the paper.

The SFO instead warned that NBR had been in breach of its statutory obligations under the Serious Fraud Office Act since 9 am today.

The SFO has demanded editorial files relating to NBR’s investigation into the collapse of the South Canterbury Finance group of companies and yesterday threatened its journalists with jail and fines for non-coperation.

The NBR called for the meeting to seek reassurances that its co-operation with the SFO would not lead to further fishing trips for information that could compromise the paper’s confidential sources.

It does look like the info demanded will eventually be provided:

The SFO’s request related to already published material that the paper has no objection to supplying as no confidential sources were violated.

But NBR is seeking an assurance from the Serious Fraud Office that it will not invoke its draconian powers of document seizure in return for NBR’s co-operation into the SFO’s investigations in the South Canterbury Finance collapse.

Mr Colman said today the initial information sought by the SFO had already been published and its release would not violate the confidentiality of any NBR sources.

So NBR are saying yeah we can give you that info but we don’t want to be seen to assenting to further info which will compromise sources.

Mr Colman said today the SFO’s blatant intimidation was appalling and counterproductive.

“We are not the enemies of the SFO. We want the bad guys investigated as well,” he said.

“However, no news service is going to be able to get crucial information from its sources or whistleblowers if they face public exposure. We have taken legal advice and been told the act is so draconian that it is impossible for us to refuse to co-operate without risking serious penalty.

“We have decided to hand over the material they are asking for today because it doesn’t compromise any of the sources of Matt Nippert, the reporter who carried out the investigation.

Good on NBR for not rolling over without protest. If Barry does end up in jail, I’ll smuggle in an iPad to him!

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18 Responses to “NBR v SFO”

  1. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    The SFO want to be careful or they’ll risk generating a public image as out of control big government morons.

    Oh wait…!!

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  2. mjwilknz (605 comments) says:

    Is this (further) evidence that it’s improper to give authorities power without also giving the public a right of appeal?

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  3. lastmanstanding (1,300 comments) says:

    The SFO have been a disappointment from day one. Even though I supported their retention when the Socialists wanted to disband them and roll them into the Police from Chas Sturt they just havent performed.

    They had a self imposed 85% success rate That is they wouldnt investigate unless they thought they had an 85% chance of success.

    Thats plain wrong. They should have prosecuted when they thought they had a 50% chance. So they were letting possible crooks off.

    They sat on their hands in the Finance company debacle in the early days saying they didnt have the powers to do anything.

    That was bullshit andc they know. Now they are going after SCF with a vengance bit like the Pold went after Arthur Allan Thomas . In that case there had been 3 young females murdered over a year and a bit and no convictions. the Holyoake government ordered the Plod to find someone. Arthur Allan Thomas.

    And that why Rob Muldoon pushed so hard to get Thomas pardoned in 1979 because Rob was Finance Minister in 1970 and knew that Thomas was framed.

    So the connection with SCF The SFO are desparate to hang draw and quarter Hubbard and associates They will and are doing everything and anything to make it stick.

    Forget Hanover Strategic et al.. Not interested in these guys. IMHO SCF have been naughty but not as much as Watson Hotchin etc

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  4. tankyman (116 comments) says:

    “Good on NBR for not rolling over without protest. If Barry does end up in jail, I’ll smuggle in an iPad to him!”

    Thats gonna hurt – would suggets a iphone might be more easily hidden.

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  5. Jeremy Harris (319 comments) says:

    This is just a glaring example of why compelling people to give evidence against themselves or bear witness against someone else is such a slippery slope towards totalitarianism…

    The freedom of the press is called into question when sources aren’t absolutely assured of confidentiality…

    Those American founding fathers were geniuses, if only they’d limited government a bit better… Long live angry old white guys with authority issues…

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  6. mjwilknz (605 comments) says:

    Jeremy, are you into your constitutionalism? Perhaps the experience in the U.S. shows how difficult it is to write the perfect constitution, but also that each generation will have to work hard to keep its freedoms. Any thoughts? Perhaps this is relevant to NZ’s upcoming constitutional debate.

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  7. Chris2 (768 comments) says:

    The SFO used to have a very informative and useful website detailing all their current Court cases, as well as an RSS feed, but the website (www.sfo.govt.nz) content was removed about five months ago and it now is just a one-page site displaying this unhelpful notice:

    “The website is undergoing development and will be available in the near future. ”

    I think its unprofessional that a government agency can take their site offline and for the next five months keep lying with the statement that the site will be back in the near future.

    Their webmaster seems to be as diligent as their fraud investigators.

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  8. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    Various anti-corruption commissions in the Australian states have trie this tactic from time to time. The news organisations and journalists have always held out (occasionally the journos have gone to jail for a while) and have always won, leaving the government agencies looking impotent.

    Colman is doing the right thing, offering a meeting. No doubt the paper would try to find a way to give the SFO as much as possible while protecting its sources. The SFO’s recalcitrance just shows a bunch of officials drunk with power, as usual.

    I hope NBR has solid doors and good locks. The standard response from the government bullies at this point is to conduct a nasty, threatening raid, complete with detention of all staff on the premises.

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  9. adam2314 (377 comments) says:

    Ven vill you people unterstant .. Ve haf our vays Yah !!!..

    …- …- …-

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  10. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    Good story by Fran O’Sullivan in the Herald. Feeley coming across as a lightweight publicity seeker. Nothing new there though. Let’s hope he doesn’t embarass this govt like he did the last when he ran Crown Minerals.

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  11. Repton (769 comments) says:

    …- …- …-

    V V V ?

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  12. lastmanstanding (1,300 comments) says:

    insider Tell us more about Adam Feeley and Crown Minerals

    The SFO certainly know how to pick them Remember poor old Chas Sturt who finished up admiting to a Select Committee he didnt understand the wiring diagrams.

    Now they were a bit tricky even for us CAs but the theme was a circluar transaction that had no commercial sense but derived a nice little earner in the way of a tax credit for free nothing nix!!!!!

    Back on track Feeley is giving all the signs of a panic. Its been months now with lots of promises but no arrests. Storming the free press aint a good look sunshine. Better to take the nice mans invitation to sit down for a cup of tea and a chat.

    Methinks FIGJAM is a cracking the whip here. he sure as hell doesnt want to have to tell JK theres not enough evidence to jail old man Hubbard.

    Not after all the promises.

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  13. adam2314 (377 comments) says:

    Repton .

    Yes.

    V V V …

    Eternal vigilance will always bring VICTORY.. against those that wish to control..

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  14. Nookin (3,455 comments) says:

    If the SFO just rocks up to NBR and says gives us what you’s got then NBR has a problem. It cannot roll over and let its tum be tickled without looking like it doesn’t give a stuff for confidential sources. Bang goes the line of communication. So, it says we’d love to help but you’ve got to make it look like we’ve no choice – rough us up a bit. Just like friendly witnesses who would prefer a witness summons so they are not seen to be too keen to give evidence. So, SFO looks like the bully. NBR gets public sympathy and the inside running on a bloody good yarn. Everyone wins.

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  15. Paul Marsden (998 comments) says:

    Why does’t this little upstart and naive Feeley, show some respect for the position of office and at the very least, wear a tie as he goes about his business but particularly, when he appears in public? Furthermore, his immaturity for the position of this office has been further demonstrated by the way he has sanctioned the serving of this Notice upon the NBR. He would serve his career better by staying at home in bed with a cup of nice warm milk reading ‘The Art and Power of Negotiation or, perhaps “How to make Friends and Influence people”

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  16. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    lastman

    He had a poor relationship with the industry, led some extremely unsuccessful block tenders after talking them up strongly. and started a couple of legal fights he couldn’t finish.

    http://www.med.govt.nz/templates/MultipageDocumentTOC____23654.aspx
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/geoff-cumming/news/article.cfm?a_id=88&objectid=10454288

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  17. Pongo (374 comments) says:

    Feely worried me when he announced his investigation into Aorangi, without having a proper look first he sprayed around all sorts of allegations and here we are 4 months later and…… NOTHING. Madoff was caught and in jail for 150 years in a shorter time. Also nothing on his other investigations he trumpeted and said he would have stitched up in a couple of months into the other finance companies.
    Launching an investigation on the back of an NBR article by threatening to jail the editor is bizzare, why not have a coffee with Mr Gibson and get some advice on where to look. After all it seems NBR are better at investigating than the enforcement agency with huge powers.
    I think Feely is completely unsuited to the roll, with huge power comes huge responsibility and he should just go about his job and get it done rather than strut in front of the media.

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  18. Jeremy Harris (319 comments) says:

    @mjmilknz:

    If you’re a Libertarian you’d be very happy with the draft constitution Lindsey Perigo wrote… It’s pretty much impenitrable:

    http://www.freeradical.co.nz/content/constitution/index.php

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