Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Stinkier and stinkier

Murray McCully's "facilitation payment" to Saudi businessman Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf was already looking pretty stinky - less like a business deal and more like an outright bribe. And now its gotten even stinkier. Firstly, the supposed "independent audit" of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's tender for developing the Saudi agri-hub? It didn't happen. Instead, the tender - which miraculously resulted in the contract being awarded to a company owned by Al Khalaf - was "independently" audited by MFAT, the same people who wanted to give Al Khalaf lots of money to make his objections go away.

And secondly, the legal threat which McCully claimed justified the deal? McCully has changed his mind about that:

One News has an email in which Mr McCully denies there was ever a legal threat.

In an email dated 13 May, reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan asked Mr McCully's press secretary, "Was the Minister made aware of a threat by Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf or his business ventures to take legal action domestically over the ban of live sheep exports?"

The following day the press secretary responded "I have just been able to speak with the Minister the answer is no."

So, McCully told Cabinet there was a legal threat to unlock the money, then told journalists there wasn't when they started sniffing around. Either he lied to his colleagues, or he deliberately tried to mislead the media. Either is sacking offence, and either way he should go.