Inside Truth editor's arms dealing plan

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 10:36 01/11/2012
Cameron Slater
FAILED IDEA: Cameron Slater was part of an abandoned plan to sell old NZ Army tanks overseas.

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New Truth newspaper editor Cameron Slater and former tobacco PR man Carrick Graham were behind an aborted scheme to sell NZ Army tanks to overseas military buyers.

The pair formed a company in 2010 after Slater "had an idea" and told Graham, who realised he had overseas military contacts who might be interested in the army's under-used Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs).

Slater – who regularly writes on his Whale Oil blog about weapons – was a director of the company called New Zealand Military Procurement Agency Limited from December 2010 to June 2011.

Graham – formerly representing British American Tobacco and more recently former Hanover boss Mark Hotchin – is still a director and shareholder of the company. It has recently been renamed, removing the "Military" from the title.

Graham said yesterday that the plan was to interest his own offshore military contacts in the army's "shrinkwrapped" LAVs, which were sitting disused.

"New Zealand bought 140 of these things and were only using 30 or 40 of them – they couldn't send them off anywhere so most of them were shrinkwrapped sitting on an army base," Graham said.

Reports from 2010 show the Government was looking to sell 35 of the 105 LAVs that the Labour government bought for $680 million in 2003.

Graham would not say who his contacts were or where they were from but confirmed they were military in nature.

"It was our understanding that New Zealand was keen on selling some of them, so we just had a bit of a fish around and that was it.

"Cameron and I go back a long time, it was just an idea we looked at but nothing came out of it."

Speaking yesterday after being named editor of the Truth weekly tabloid paper, Slater said his idea for the venture was to do "something similar to what Pharmac does in the pharmaceutical industry" - procuring government requirements for a cheaper price, along with selling surplus equipment.

He said government organisations such as the police, the Department of Corrections and the army were "big buyers of stuff".

In the end it was all too hard, Slater said.

"We never traded, we never did anything, it was open pretty much for a week and then we closed it down."

The New Zealand Defence Force has said it has not had any contact with the New Zealand Military Procurement Agency "or any other external organisation in relation to a potential LAV sale or disposal".

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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