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Trinity Hill's US owner under scrutiny

NZN 6/04/2017 Rebecca Howard

US wine fund manager Charles Banks could be removed as an owner of New Zealand's Trinity Hill winery if he is found not to be of "good character", the Overseas Investment Office says.

It noted Banks has pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud in the US. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Banks - former financial adviser to NBA player Tim Duncan - plead guilty on Monday to a count of federal wire fraud.

Banks is the majority shareholder of Terroir Capital LLC, which manages the Terroir Winery Fund. The Terroir Winery Fund was granted consent to acquire Hawkes Bay winery Trinity Hill in 2014 and Banks has been co-owner of Trinity Hill since December 2014.

A condition of the consent required "individuals with control" of the Terroir Winery Fund (including Banks) to remain of good character, the OIO said in a statement.

In light of Banks' guilty plea, the OIO is considering whether Banks remains of good character, it said.

"The OIO has met with Terroir Winery Fund's representatives to make it clear that in our view Mr Banks is unlikely to meet his on-going obligation to remain of good character.

"If Mr Banks is not of good character, then we will seek to have him to be removed as an individual with control of sensitive land in New Zealand," it said.

When assessing good character among other elements the OIO looks at "offences or contraventions of the law".

According to the OIO, Banks is due to be sentenced on June 26.

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