Wellington Tenths Trust wins interim freezing order case against Lorraine Skiffington
The former partner of convicted fraudster Sir Ngatata Love has had her assets frozen pending a decision on a multimillion-dollar claim against her.
Wellington Tenths Trust is seeking to recover $3.49 million that was paid into two companies associated with Lorraine Skiffington.
In the meantime, the trust applied to freeze her assets as financial protection for the outcome of the claim, which is set to be heard in Wellington High Court on Wednesday.
In her decision released on Tuesday, Justice Karen Clark granted the order.
* Wellington Tenths Trust wants Skiffington assets frozen
* Wellington Tenths Trust attempts recovery from Lorraine Skiffington
* Court of Appeal declines former iwi leader Sir Ngatata Love's appeal
Skiffington had interests in up to 40 properties, jointly with her former domestic partner known only as "Mr Jones", which they required together over a "lengthy period", the decision said.
"Ms Skiffington deposed that the reason property titles had not changed despite the relationship ending in 2007 was due to the relationship property agreement entered into at that time."
Skiffington, 59, is the former partner of Love, 79. He is currently serving a 2½-year jail sentence for obtaining by deception. Love's appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed in June.
Skiffington was charged with fraud along with Love, and his son Matene, but the case against her was stopped due to her ill-health. She pleaded not guilty in that case.
Love was charged in relation to a $1.5 million payment made from developers wanting to build on Tenths Trust land. The money went into a company controlled by then-partner Skiffington.
The money was used to pay down the mortgage on a Plimmerton home the two had bought months earlier to live in together.
In Clark's decision, she noted that Skiffington's lawyer Jonathan Temm argued there was no basis for suggesting the assets were being dissipated or disposed of in any way.
"As to the suggestion that Ms Skiffington is motivated by her medical condition to dissipate her assets, Mr Temm pointed out that Ms Skiffington has had her condition for several years yet there has been no change in her financial arrangements," it said.
In Skiffington's evidence, she said she did not assert hardship as result of freezing orders being made, the decision said.
However, Skiffington said in a written statement that she and Love had no idea about the financial transactions done by Shaan Stevens (a former business associate of Skiffington who was also convicted of fraud) and a Westpac employee that led to the purchase of a Plimmerton house.
Temms argued all the payments had their genesis in a consultancy agreement with her company, and she personally received nothing, the decision said.
She was not personally liable for payments made to her company, he said.
The house was now tenanted and Skiffington was collecting the rent but not paying interest on the Westpac mortgage, which was $1.1m in arrears. In separate proceedings, the police commissioner has a restraining order over the house.
In addition to not paying the mortgage, Skiffington never responded to a letter, dated November 2016, from the trust's chairman requesting reparations for unauthorised payments the trust claims she received.
"Balancing all that has been said on behalf of the defendants against the first defendant's failure to arrange payment of even part of the mortgage arrears due to Westpac, the defendant's failure to respond to tenths' request for a written undertaking, and the apparent strength of the plaintiff's claim, Tenths has demonstrated that the overall interests of justice favour the grant of an interim freezing order," the judge said.
"The overall interests of justice do not favour the defendants in circumstances where there is a tenable argument they have engaged in fraudulent activities that have caused serious loss to the plaintiff, its beneficiaries, and the wider Maori community in Wellington and Taranaki."