Henderson gets apology for email bungle

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Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014

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Government officials have been forced to apologise to bankrupt property developer Dave Henderson over an email trail suggesting court staff would leak details about charges against him to the media.

And there are calls for a top bureaucrat to accept responsibility for the emails and resign after they were released under the Privacy Act and made public yesterday.

Henderson wants a stay of legal proceedings that allege he failed to disclose information relevant to his status as a bankrupt and that he obtained credit of $1000 or more (while bankrupt).

The controversial Christchurch businessman and his close friend, former ACT leader Rodney Hide, believe the emails show the Insolvency and Trustee Service has "no integrity" and were trying to give him a "good roughing up".

"It's a well established principle that you can't use the courts as a means of trying to intimidate or cower someone," Henderson said.

"These emails point to such motives."

The service's national manager, Robyn Cox, should have "cleaned out her desk and walked out the front door this week", Henderson said.

"Put your hand up and say, ‘I've screwed up', and take responsibility for it."

The emails, dated November 7 last year, show Insolvency and Trustee Service senior investigator Barend Wolmarans gave a "heads up" to Cox that charges were being filed against Henderson.

"Once the charges [sic] is filed I am sure someone at the court will leak the info to the media," Wolmarans says in the email.

Cox replies: "The response by H will be interesting."

She then forwards the email exchange to other senior officials telling them about the prosecution against Henderson and warning them to "be prepared for fireworks".

In a letter to Henderson, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) chief executive David Smol says, "On behalf of the ministry I apologise for this."

The Insolvency and Trustee Service is overseen by MBIE.

Yesterday, Smol told The Press staff involved had been spoken to and "fully acknowledge that the email exchange was inappropriate".

"We are taking this matter seriously and will be taking all necessary remedial action to ensure the integrity of our operations and that our staff are aware of their obligations under the ministry's code of conduct," Smol said.

"This inappropriate behaviour is in no way a reflection of staff attitudes across MBIE and we regret this incident."

Asked whether Cox would lose her job, Smol said he would not comment further while a review was under way.

Canterbury district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles yesterday also acknowledged that aspects of police raids targeting Henderson's Lichfield St offices in 2011 were "unsatisfactory" but not unlawful.

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"Police have been in discussion with Mr Henderson over settlement, but no agreement has been reached at this stage," Knowles said.

Henderson said the raids demonstrated either "malice or incompetence".

"Either way it wasn't police's proudest moment."

Speaking to The Press yesterday, Hide said the Insolvency and Trustee Service emails were "shocking".

"What we've got here is, at least, a complete lack of judgment and you can't now have any confidence in the insolvency service and its integrity because that's how the boss behaves.

"I would have expected [Robyn Cox] . . . to have tendered her resignation for the good of the service.

"The fact she hasn't tendered her resignation and realised the impossibility of her position also shows now that she's in the wrong position."

MBIE had apologised to the Ministry of Justice for the "inappropriate comments" made about staff at Christchurch District Court in the email exchange, a spokeswoman said.

Henderson was declared bankrupt on November 29, 2010.

He would have been automatically discharged from bankruptcy in January but the official assignee lodged an objection.

Henderson has been summonsed to appear in the High Court on June 9 for an examination of his bankruptcy.

TIMELINE

● August 1996: Bankrupted after a year-long fight.

● 1999: Bankruptcy discharged.

● August 2008: Christchurch City Council controversially buys five inner-city properties for $17 million from Dave Henderson's companies which do not pay the $2.6m GST on the deal to IRD.

● March 2010: Henderson's cornerstone company, Property Ventures, put into receivership.

● November 2010: Henderson declared bankrupt over personal guarantees of about $140m.


- The Press

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