You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Saudi businessman says no plan to sue

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/07/2016

One of the businessmen at the centre of a controversial Saudi Arabian sheep deal says they never intended to sue the New Zealand government.

The government invested $11.5 million in Saudi businessman Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf's desert farm, paying for an agrihub to showcase New Zealand equipment and flying over 900 pregnant ewes.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully made the deal with Mr Khalaf, who lost millions when the previous government banned the export of live sheep for slaughter in 2007.

Part of the deal was a $4m payment to Mr Khalaf.

Mr McCully has said the investment was necessary to repair the diplomatic damage and to head off the risk of Mr Khalaf suing the government for up to $30 million.

But Mr Khalaf's business partner, George Assaf, on Saturday told TV3's The Nation while they had taken legal advice on a lawsuit - as stated in cabinet papers on the deal - there was never any intention to sue the government.

"We've never taken action or thought about this," he said.

"Of course, maybe we go and get a legal opinion, but we have no appetite or no ambition to take any government around the world, not only New Zealand."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said Mr McCully needed to front with proof of the legal threat or stand down.

"The public has never seen any proof of this so-called legal action against the government.

Unless Murray McCully can produce the evidence now, he needs to go as minister," he said.

"The entire case for spending millions of taxpayers' dollar on a sheep farm in the middle of a desert was the threat of a legal action. Now were told that threat never existed."

Mr McCully has declined to comment until an ongoing investigation by the Auditor-General into the deal is completed.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon