Judge orders Love and Skiffington's Plimmerton house sold, "tainted by crime"
By Sophie Boot
July 20 (BusinessDesk) - The Plimmerton house at the centre of Ngatata Love's fraud case must be sold, as it is tainted by the proceeds of crime and its value is eroding as the mortgage is nearly $100,000 in arrears, a judge has ruled.
Last October, former Treaty negotiator and Wellington-based Maori leader, Love was jailed for two years and six months after being found guilty of obtaining significant sums by deception. He and Skiffington used a $1.5 million payment from a land developer, given as a premium for access to valuable land owned by the Wellington Tenths Trust, to pay for the house. Love chaired the trust at the time and former trustees gave evidence at the trial that they had never been told of the payment.
Wellington High Court Justice Karen Clark has ordered the official assignee to sell the Moana Road property, valued at $1.75 million, after an application from the Commissioner of Police. A restraining order on the house was granted in 2014, while Love was appealing his conviction and sentence, which was ultimately unsuccessful. The house is registered as belonging to Love, Lorraine Skiffington, and Arahi Trustee Services.
The mortgage on the property is about $1 million, and arrears as at June 22 this year totalled $96,500, Westpac Bank told the court. Skiffington argued that the arrears had been manufactured by the bank, but the judge said that the dispute was between her and Westpac and couldn't bar the application for a sale order.
Earlier this week, Justice Clark ruled that assets belonging to Skiffington and Strategic Directionz, a trust of which she is the sole director and shareholder, are now frozen, pending the outcome of an attempt by the Tenths Trust to pursue Skiffington for unjust enrichment.
Skiffington was charged alongside Love, but was granted a permanent stay as she was declared medically unfit to stand trial. Her lawyer was successful in getting the first hearing set down for the sale order adjourned due to her deteriorating health and was concerned she was unable to accurately recall details of the transactions from years earlier.
"With regard to the hearing before me it did not appear that Ms Skiffington’s interests in opposing the application have been compromised by her personal circumstances," Justice Clark said. "Ms Skiffington filed extensive affidavit evidence the day before the hearing. Up to the minute correspondence was included. Even accepting that the affidavit apparently took many months to complete it was apparent to me that Ms Skiffington’s interests were comprehensively and ably advanced by her counsel."