'Vendetta' in CV-error case

TONY WALL
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2014

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Allegations against a law firm chief executive caught with a fake CV come from a disgruntled former colleague who has waged a personal vendetta against him for years, friends say.

Michael Vukcevic, former chief executive of Auckland law firm Baldwins and chairman of the Middle East Business Council, admitted last week he did not hold a law degree despite his CV saying he had one.

Vukcevic announced on Friday he was standing down from the council. He resigned from Baldwins in November.

The Sunday Star-Times has learned that a former member of the council who was expelled in 2011 after making unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against Vukcevic is behind the publicity.

The man also made his allegations to police, Baldwins, Government officials and ministers.

"He has an obsessive personality, in the end the council took legal steps to get rid of him and he's carried a grudge ever since," a source said.

"He's been going around town trying to blacken the name of Michael and others on the council. He's been after Michael for a long time."

The Star-Times understands the saga began when the man alleged that Vukcevic and another council member colluded to get free Emirates flights for a business delegation to the Middle East in 2010. Sources say Vukcevic wasn't even on the delegation, but had gone to the Middle East about a year earlier in a private capacity.

Detective Ewen Settle of Auckland police wrote to the council in 2011 to say he had found no evidence of fraud and that no free flights had been provided.

It is understood Baldwins appointed a private investigator to look into the claims, which were found to be unsubstantiated. However, the false claim about the law degree from Victoria University was discovered, at which point Vukcevic resigned for "personal reasons".

His friends say it was an "honest mistake" that happened during the recruitment process and Vukcevic had never claimed to be a lawyer.

In 2011, the business council terminated the membership of the man who had made the allegations, on the grounds he had brought the organisation into disrepute. It is the only time a membership has been terminated and cost the council $7000 in legal fees.

A former secretary of the council, Keith Sumner, said: "Michael has been the victim of a long-running personal vendetta. He is an honest, hardworking guy and has been smeared."

A friend, who asked not to be identified, said he had been "shafted".

"He pissed blood for the council, it was a voluntary role, and now that's gone."

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The friend said Vukcevic had received more than 300 emails, calls and texts of support from people including ministers and officials.

Vukcevic would not comment because of a confidentiality agreement.

The accuser confirmed he had spoken to journalists who broke the fake CV story. He said he no longer had anything to do with the council, and its former chairman was proven to be a CV fraudster.

- Sunday Star Times

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