Govt went out of its way to 'muddy the truth'- Shaw

  • 05/08/2015

By Peter Wilson

The Greens are asking the auditor-general to investigate the government's $11.5 million investment in a Saudi Arabian sheep farm.

Party co-leader James Shaw says he's writing to Lyn Provost because he believes it was a dodgy deal.

"The government has gone out of its way to muddy the truth and provide select details designed to confuse the public - a sure sign they have something to hide," he said today.

He's referring to hundreds of documents released by the government yesterday which detail how and why the investment was made.

Ministers wanted to repair the damage caused to New Zealand's relationship with Saudi Arabia by the ban on the export of live sheep for slaughter and avoid what they believed was the possibility of being sued for up to $30 million.

Influential businessman Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf lost millions when the ban was imposed in 2007 by the previous Labour government.

The Saudi government put a free trade agreement on hold and diplomatic relations were "poisoned", according to Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

The $11.5m included a $4m payment to Mr Khalaf for intellectual property and his trade network expertise.

Labour says it was a bribe which has sullied New Zealand's international reputation.

NZ First leader Winston Peters says the payment was a disgrace and the government should have stood up to Saudi Arabia rather than get involved in "a sordid deal".

Mr Shaw says he wrote to Ms Provost in May about aspects of the deal and now the documents have been released he's urging her to investigate fully.

The government sought her opinion while it was planning the investment.

She said the financial case for it was weak and questioned the legality of some of the decisions that were being made.

Ministers went ahead anyway.