More trouble for Judith Collins over Oravida

MICHAEL FOX AND TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 20:19 15/04/2014
Collins
Fairfax NZ
FRESH ALLEGATIONS: Judith Collins.

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Justice Minister Judith Collins is embroiled in fresh allegations surrounding her dinner with an unnamed Chinese border control official after the release of documents showing Oravida pleaded with government ministers to intervene in the wake of the Fonterra botulism scare.

Collins and NZ First leader Winston Peters traded blows today after he asked why she would not reveal the name and position of the senior Chinese official she had dinner with while on an official visit to China last year.

Collins has previously confirmed having having dinner with the official along with Oravida managing director Julia Xu and chairman Stone Shi, who are close personal friends and business associates of her husband David Wong-Tung, who is a director of Oravida.

The Government refuses to name the official or his agency, other than to say his area was  ''border control''.

Opposition MPs have accused Collins of using her position to benefit her husband's businesses - accusations she strenuously denies, saying the dinner was private.

Documents obtained by 3 News this evening show Xu wrote to Trade Minister Tim Groser and Primary Industry Minister Nathan Guy in August last year about the fallout from Fonterra's botulism scare, which later turned out to be a false alarm.

The letter says Oravida has been ''profoundly negatively'' affected by the disaster and urges ''ministers and the New Zealand government to help us to navigate through this difficult time''.

''Working with the Chinese government to remove this new testing requirement is imperative as with this new testing requirement we may be forced to stop this ground breaking project of establishing new exports for New Zealand which has been ongoing for almost a year.''

Collins' dinner with Oravida and the Chinese official was in October that year.

Prime Minister John Key last month rebuked Collins for not not coming clean about the dinner earlier and said the cumulative effect of her dealings with Oravida had created a perception of a conflict of interest.

But Key's office tonight said the new documents changed nothing  as ''Minister Collins has consistently said it was a private dinner and that no business was discussed''.

Peters had earlier claimed under parliamentary privilege that Collins' ''arranged meeting with that official was a serious conflict of interest and a corrupt abuse of her Cabinet position''.

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But Collins hit back at Peters.

''I would say to that member if he is worried about corruption I think he should consider a Member of Parliament who asked questions in this House and written questions to help his girlfriend in her position with a major global company,'' she said.

Peters asked whether Collins understood that levelling such allegations ''will not save her when she was moonlighting for her husband's company, that her DNA is all over this issue and that if she answers questions fully she would no longer get the prime minister's defence and would be sacked for corruption''.

Collins said the only member of the House who should be ''sacked for corruption'' was Peters.

- Fairfax Media

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