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Evidence Should Accompany Allegations - Minister

19 April 2002

If NZ First MP Winston Peters has any evidence of illegal behaviour by officials from a state owned enterprise, he should provide it to me and I can assure him it will be fully investigated, State Owned Enterprises Minister Mark Burton said.

"In speech notes released today by Mr Peters, he claims "Airways Corporation officials were involved in deception, and still are involved in seriously illegal deception." That is a very serious allegation to make, especially when no evidence has been produced to date to back the allegation. The proper action for a responsible MP would be to forward any such evidence to me, without delay.

"I am aware that documents compiled by former Airways employee Ezequiel Trumper are currently circulating in Wellington.

"All of these papers were properly investigated by the Auditor-General and his report was publicly released in July 2000. He identified some internal Airways procedures that needed to be improved. But he found that Airways had NOT acted unlawfully or unethically, and that the board did correctly identify and appropriately manage the potential conflicts of interest that existed for senior management involved in preparing a bid for a UK contract.

"Mr Trumper wrote to me last year claiming ongoing intimidation from Airways. There is no evidence to support that assertion.

"I am advised that Mr Trumper has NOT been named in any legal action taken by Airways, but that Airways has taken legal action - in Australia - as it tries to identify the source of malicious, defamatory and at times obscene emails. These have been sent to Airways staff, media, existing and potential customers. This anonymous campaign has the potential to cause enormous harm to Airways international business and reputation. Some of the emails have been traced to one particular office in Sydney.

"The board of any State Owned Enterprise has to take legal measures that it considers appropriate and necessary to protect that SOE’s commercial position. Indeed, directors have a clear legal obligation to do so.

"To the best of my knowledge, Airways has acted appropriately. Mr Peters has made a serious allegation, so I repeat again – if he has any new information, that has not already been investigated, he should present it to me, without delay, so that I can have it investigated immediately," Mark Burton said.

Ends

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