A public relations expert asked an indecent assault complainant if their allegation against a prominent New Zealander would disappear if he was wired $700,000, a court has heard.
The conversation was one of two secret recordings which have been played to a jury in the Auckland District Court over the past two days.
A wealthy businessman is on trial facing two charges of indecent assault – accused of two crimes in February 2008 and October 2016 – and two counts of perverting the course of justice by attempting to dissuade the second complainant from giving evidence at his trial.
A well-known entertainer also faces three charges of attempting to dissuade the same man, while the prominent Kiwi’s business manager is charged with attempting to dissuade the witness on one occasion.
Today, the court heard more about what the Crown has termed the “Gold Coast plot”.
It involved hiring the public relations expert and spending tens of thousands of dollars to “silence [the complainant]”, Crown prosecutor Simon Foote has said.
The second complainant had gone to police after the businessman allegedly indecently assaulted him in 2016.
“I was unaware that [the businessman] was following me, [I] closed the door, moments after he was there knocking … crawling into my bed,” he told the court today.
The businessman, however, claims he was simply aiding the young man who was suffering from food poisoning.
In May 2017, the alleged victim was living in Queensland, and was asked to come to the Gold Coast to meet a group of business people and talk about career opportunities.
The Crown alleges the “scheme” was orchestrated by the prominent Kiwi and involved his business manager and the entertainer.
The second complainant instructed to meet the group at the Palazzo Versace hotel, the court heard.
He spent an afternoon shopping and was wined and dined before for being asked to drop his claims against the prominent New Zealander, the Crown alleges.
“… what someone’s life is worth … someone’s life is probably worth about $700,000”, the second complainant said.
The public relations expert said: “And that’s what you want? $700,000? ‘Because a life’s worth $70,000.
“And so if he, the person in question … put that in your account, you’d retract the statement?”
The young man replied: “Immediately.”
The PR expert and another person who works with him will later give evidence for the Crown. They have been given immunity from prosecution and their names are temporarily suppressed.
The prominent New Zealander’s lawyer David Jones QC, however, has accused the second complainant of sending information about the case to a “reporter”.
“You were looking to sell your story for money? Do you believe you can sell your story for money?” Jones said.
The young man denied to proposition.
Yesterday afternoon, the court heard a covert audio recording the second complainant had made of a conversation in April 2017 with the well-known entertainer.
The entertainer is accused of making an attempt to have the allegations dropped and encouraging the young man to talk to a lawyer who could provide a “contract”.
“You’d be surprised what money can do to buy people who you might know, you know what I mean? I know they can get nasty, that’s what I don’t want to see, the most important thing is you,” the entertainer can be heard saying.
“He has enough money to buy people to survive … give [the lawyer] a ring this afternoon, I’ll ring her first to say you might be ringing.”
The entertainer is also accused of making a third attempt to dissuade the complainant in September 2017, just one week before the trial of the prominent New Zealander was first due to begin.
All three defendants had their interim name suppression revoked earlier this week by Judge Russell Collins after a successful legal challenge by the Herald and Stuff. But their names will remain secret after lawyers for the accused indicated an appeal to the High Court.
The jury trial, which is set for four weeks, continues.