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  • Trust chairman steps down

    Wellington Tenths Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love has stepped down from his job while an investigation is undertaken into $1.02 million being deposited into an account he held with his partner Lorraine Skiffington. The payment was revealed in the decision of Justice Stephen Kos covering the trial of David Ingram Rowley and Barrie James Skinner in the High Court at Wellington.

    The pair, as directors of Tax Planning Services, were found guilty of a multimillion-dollar fraud against Inland Revenue and face sentencing next Friday. According to the judgment, a company jointly owned by Ms Skiffington was paid $1.4m by two Auckland property developers seeking involvement in Tenths Trust developments.
    Payments were forwarded to entities controlled by Skinner and Rowley, with $1.02m directed into a personal account Ms Skiffington held with Sir Ngatata Love.

    During the trial of the two accountants it was alleged the payments were secret commissions, which were concealed from the rest of the Tenths Trust. Ms Skiffington appeared as a witness in the trial, in her role as a client of Tax Planning Services, Skinner and Rowley's company
    .
    According to the judgment, Pipitea Street Developments Ltd, which Ms Skiffington jointly owned, entered into an agreement with developers Kerry Knight and Tony Gapes, who believed they were being provided "consultancy and management services" for Tenths Trust projects which they had, or wanted, an involvement with.
    A payment to Pipitea of $1.4m from Mr Knight and Mr Gapes' companies in January 2007 was immediately followed by four payments from Pipitea, totalling $1.5m, which matched payments into entities controlled by Skinner and Rowley.

    "On the same day, January 31, 2007, two payments totalling $1.02m were made from the TPS trust account to the joint personal account of Ms Skiffington and her partner, Sir Ngatata Love," Justice Kos said.
    Under cross-examination, Ms Skiffington faced accusations from Skinner and Rowley's lawyer, Mike Lennard, that the payments were secret commissions, structured to be deliberately concealed from anyone with an interest in the Tenths Trust.

    "Absolutely not," she responded. Of the exchange, Justice Kos wrote: "That is not a matter I need to resolve."
    Sir Ngatata told The Dominion Post yesterday he had stepped aside as chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust, following a conference call of trustees on Thursday night, to allow a full independent inquiry into matters raised in theEvidence presented to the hearing has referred to an account where Sir Ngatata was said to be a joint bank account holder.
    Sir Ngatata said "any money movements operated on such an account have been done without my knowledge and consent". He stated the money transactions had been done by one of the convicted fraudsters Skinner or Rowley, or Shaan Stevens, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges in an earlier related case.
    Sir Ngatata said he had offered to stand aside on Thursday night and was taking legal advice on the matter.
    Mark Te One has taken over as acting Tenths Trust chairman.
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