Forensic accountants are investigating the estate of New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan's mother, amid allegations that large sums of money were misappropriated from her bank accounts over several years.
The matter has been raised with NZ First leader Winston Peters.
"I was interested as the leader of a political party when one of my MPs is subject of allegations," Peters said. "But I deal in facts, that's all I am interested in and I haven't seen any."
About a month before she died of cancer on August 3, Olwen Horan, of Mt Maunganui, a million-dollar lottery winner, signed an amendment to her will authorising the executor to "recover money by any lawful means" from Horan, "which has either been loaned . . . by me, or taken from me".
The Sunday Star-Times has obtained a copy of the amendment, which has been sealed by the High Court at Tauranga. It also states that if the funds have not been recouped by the time of her death, then Horan's share of the estate "will be adjusted to take in account of any such funds received . . . over the last 10 years".
The Star-Times understands she obtained a medical certificate, signed by two doctors, saying she was in her right mind when she made the changes.
The executor of the will, her nephew John Buckthought, said he had given bank statements, going back 10 years, to a law firm, and forensic accountants were going over them.
"There's a lot of money that can't be accounted for," he said.
He said Olwen Horan, 87, was concerned that money was missing from her accounts, but had asked that the legal action not be taken until after her death.
Buckthought said he gave Peters an overview of the situation about two months ago.
"I didn't give him all the details. I've been very careful, I've never accused anyone of taking any money, but there seems to be discrepancies there. That's all I want to say."
It is understood police have been notified, but no decision will be made as to whether a formal complaint will be laid until the forensic investigation is complete.
Horan, a TVNZ weatherman before he became an MP, said yesterday: "Our family is still grieving over my mother, there is absolutely no story in this.
"My mother was 87 years old, she was very ill, shortly before her death the will was changed and my sister, who was the executor and had power of attorney, was suddenly removed.
"We're working through those issues and resolving them, it's a private family matter."
Horan said he knew nothing of missing money.
"There is no financial issue, I had an outstanding loan of $350. No money has been misappropriated."
Asked why his mother would have signed the amendment to her will, Horan said: "My mother was very ill."
He said he welcomed the forensic investigation, "so these wild allegations can be put to bed".
Peters said he had spoken to the executor, but had not been provided with any details. He said all he knew was there was an outstanding loan, which was expected to be met from Horan's share of the sale of his mother's house. The Star-Times understands the property at Mt Maunganui sold last week for $425,000.
It is understood the forensic examination is centering on the use of Olwen Horan's eftpos and credit cards, as well as a number of cheque transactions.
The paper has learned that she won about $1 million in prizes, including a house and car, in an Australian lottery in 1999.
In February 2007 she had a balance of $259,000 in her account. When she died there was less than $3000 left.
A source familiar with the accounts said: "There is a lot of strange activity going on, a lot of TAB withdrawals."
Horan, 51, took redundancy from TVNZ in 2007 and was one of eight NZ First list MPs elected to Parliament on the back of strong support - 6.59 per cent of the vote - in last year's election.
A former professional lifeguard, he helped save the life of an Indonesian politician who collapsed with heart problems at a United Nations conference in Japan last month.
- Sunday Star Times
- Sunday Star Times
Where do you stand on political coat-tail riding?Related story: Voters reject riding on the coat-tails