The Saudi Arabian sheep deal again

The deal between the New Zealand government and Saudi businessman Hmood Al Ali Al Khalaf has re-surfaced. After the report came out by the Auditor General Lyn Provost last November that there was no evidence of corruption- although there were "significant shortcomings"- it was probably assumed that the matter was all done and dusted. But it's election time so it's probably not surprising that the deal has resurfaced.

This time, it's that there was no evidence of a legal threat from the Saudi businessman as had been the argument used by Murray McCully, the former Foreign Affairs Minister. The article on this below.

For further details about the deal, go to:

Saudi sheep deal: No evidence of legal threat from Saudi businessman

15 Sep, 2017 10:05am

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said a $11.5m deal with a Saudi businessman Hmood Al Khalaf was partly to remove a legal threat by the businessman. Photograph by Mark Mitchell

By: Isaac Davison

Political reporter, NZ Herald

The National-led Government never received legal advice from its Foreign Affairs Ministry about the risk of being sued by a Saudi businessman, newly-released documents show.

Those documents directly contradict former Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully's claim that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) had received advice that it was at risk of being sued in relation to New Zealand's ban on live sheep exports.

The National Government signed a controversial $11.5m deal with businessman Hmood al Khalaf to create a sheep farm in Saudi Arabia.

Al Khalaf had been unhappy about the previous Labour-led government's ban on live sheep exports in 2003 and McCully said the deal was partly to remove the threat of legal action.

Al Khalaf could have sued for up to $30 million, McCully said in 2015. However, he has declined to release any advice about the potential legal threat.

Documents obtained by Radio New Zealand have now confirmed that MFAT "did not seek or provide advice on the extent of the risk of a claim in the New Zealand courts for compensation from the Al Khalaf Group against the government".

The documents were released following discussion with Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.

Opposition parties have long argued that there was never a realistic threat of legal action and it has been used by the Government as justification for the deal.

An investigation by Auditor-General Lyn Provost into the Saudi sheep deal also found no evidence that MFAT sought or received advice on any legal threat.

In a report released last year, she said her office "saw no evidence of internal or external advice being sought on the extent of the risk of a claim for compensation from the Al Khalaf Group".

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