Brian Henry threatens Nick Smith and Guyon Espiner damages claim “as high as $30,000,000.00”

Lawyer Brian Henry, closely associated with Winston Peters and NZ First, has threat to sue National MP Nick Smith and RNZ’s Guyon Espiner for defamation “for general damages together with special damages which from the information to hand could be as high as $30,000,000.00”.

This looks remarkably heavy handed – Smith claimed intimidating – and potentially a chilling effect on our democracy and journalism. One thing it does is ensure is that Henry becomes even more in the spotlight.

Meanwhile stuff continues to risk threats of legal action: ‘I am the dark shadow of NZ First’ – what party candidates claim Winston Peters’ lawyer said

Brian Henry’s role in the unfolding NZ First donations scandal is now under close scrutiny. In addition to being Peters’ right-hand man, lawyer and NZ First’s judicial officer, he is also a trustee of the New Zealand First Foundation. The foundation appears to have been taking political donations, while operating as a political slush fund for the NZ First political party.

Henry also runs QComms, a company which Stuff understands runs the party’s Nation Builder website – a campaigning and membership tool.

Some party members call Henry “Peters’ attack dog”. People turn skittish when the name is mentioned in interviews. Numerous people connected to NZ First who spoke to Stuff feared lawsuits and retribution for doing so.

Numerous sources have confirmed to Stuff that, during a candidates briefing in at a hall in Takanini near Manukau in the lead up to the 2017 election, Henry gave NZ First candidates a lesson in how the party really works.

“I am the dark shadow in this party that you don’t want to receive a phone call from,” attendees told Stuff he said. “My job is to make sure Winston Peters gets the position he deserves and none of you are going to get in the way of that,” Henry said, according to sources present at the meeting.

Henry’s comments have surfaced as a raft of former NZ First officials have come forward to Stuff – both on the record and on the condition of anonymity – complaining that they were kept in the dark about party finances, the existence of the New Zealand First Foundation. Anyone who challenged Peters, Henry or Doug Woolerton, a former MP, party president and the other trustee of the NZ First Foundation, was forced out, sources have told Stuff.

“We started off in the party and believed in its ideals and policies,” the person said.

“But the longer you are there, the more you notice these backroom deals and as soon as you start to get close, or start challenging Winston on it, you get moved aside pretty quickly.

The influence of Henry within the party is enormous and across all aspects of its operations, numerous sources told Stuff.

“Winston Peters calls Henry to back people down,” one former MP said. “He’s an attack dog. People are afraid of being tied up in litigation.”

This doesn’t surprise me and probably won’t surprise journalists. Peters threatened me with defamation action many years ago (through a lawyer I think, I can’t remember who that was).

Peters has claimed that the party is operated democratically, but it isn’t referred to as Winston First for nothing.

RNZ: NZ First Foundation trustee threatens lawsuit against National leader and MP

National has been pursuing New Zealand First and the prime minister over allegations about the handling of party donations.

Yesterday, National’s Nick Smith made a comment in Parliament about the donations.

This afternoon he tabled an email that he and National Party leader Simon Bridges received today from Mr Henry.

It said media reports had been “false and malicious”, adding that the loan activities to the party were lawful.

In the email, Mr Henry invited Dr Smith and Mr Bridges to “repeat what you said in the House in public or apologise”.

“Please note if you oblige with this request I will sue you for defamation for general damages together with special damages,” the email reads.

Speaking to reporters outside the House, Dr Smith said he needed to be very “constrained and careful” about his choice of words, given the legal threat, but he described the email as “extremely worrying”.

He said it was very concerning that an MP “going about their duties of holding the government to account” should be threatened in this way.

“I feel very strongly about the importance of New Zealand having a high level of transparency, I take great pride that when National left government New Zealand had the top ranking in the world as the least corrupt country and want to make sure that’s protected,” Dr Smith said.

“It makes you very nervous of that work when effectively the financial wellbeing of your family is being threatened.”

Letter from Brian Henry sent to National MP Nick Smith and leader Simon Bridges.

Mr Henry said in his email there was one loan from the foundation of $73,000, which was repaid in full over two years.

However, in a statement the Electoral Commission told RNZ that according to NZ First’s returns, there was one loan of $73,000 entered into in Dec 2017, another separate loan of $76,622 was disclosed in May 2018. The Commission said it understood that loan was to replace the first loan. Then there was a further loan of $44,923 disclosed in April 2019.

Going by the continuation of media reports after the defamation threat Henry’s threat does not appear to have buried the story.

Media are repeating what Smith said in Parliament – ‘this is a rort with a capital R’ – as they are protected from legal action when reporting what is said under parliamentary privilege.

Newsroom: Stonewalling on donations saga but many questions remain

NZ Herald: NZ First Leader Winston Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry threatens to sue a National MP for $30m

New Zealand First has upped the ante in the saga over its mysterious foundation, with party leader Winston Peters’ long-time lawyer Brian Henry threatening to sue National for $30 million.

In the House, senior National MP Nick Smith tabled a letter in which Henry issued a clear ultimatum to the veteran MP.

“Repeat what you said in the House in public or apologise.”

A spokesperson for National said the party would not be commenting on the letter or the threat.

But speaking to Newstalk ZB, Smith said he stood by the comments he made in the House.

He would not, however, repeat the comments he made in the House under privilege for “obvious reasons”.

This threat from Henry just escalated the NZ First donations and PGF application issues to a higher level.

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40 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  22nd November 2019

    Winston’s boat seems to have started to leak, definitely a new phenomenon in the Winston First saga.
    Will it bring him down?
    Possibly, time is marching on for him but it might take a silver stake at the crossroads to do the trick!

    Reply
  2. Gezza

     /  22nd November 2019

    I am enjoying the dreadful grammar in Henry’s emailed letter which is so appallingly worded (especially for a lawyer) that it is saying that if Bridges & Smith apologise he’ll sue them for $30m.

    Reply
  3. Another threat to media of defamation:

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  22nd November 2019

      One of the reply tweets suggests referring to Arkell vs Pressdram.

      “This case is well-known among lawyers & journalists, especially the phrase “I refer you to the reply given in Arkell and Pressdram”. Basically, it refers to a legal case whereby Mr Arkell was accused by British satirical magazine Private Eye of illicit payments, and they had ample evidence to back this up. After printing the allegations, they recieved the following letter:

      Solicitors’ letter to Private Eye:

      We act for Mr Arkell who is Retail Credit Manager of Granada TV Rental Ltd.

      His attention has been drawn to an article appearing in the issue of Private Eye dated 9th April 1971 on page 4. The statements made about Mr Arkell are entirely untrue and clearly highly defamatory.

      We are therefore instructed to require from you immediately your proposals for dealing with the matter. Mr Arkell’s first concern is that there should be a full retraction at the earliest possible date in Private Eye and he will also want his costs paid. His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.

      The reply that the Eye sent back was:

      We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell.

      We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.

      No further correspondence was received.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  22nd November 2019

        All very wise to refer to a previous case.
        As the legal letter makes clear anyone repeating the claims of Smith ( who was convicted by 2 high court judges of witness tampering in District Court case, or another,the contempt of court for publicising details , lovely chap) risks the same legal peril. Yes you have to be careful about ‘reporting’ what was said in parliament in that context .

        Reply
  4. Ray

     /  22nd November 2019

    Certainly reads as if it was knocked out on an iPhone after a late night “briefing” with his Leader.

    Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  22nd November 2019

    NZF looking more like a Mafia mob every day.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  22nd November 2019

      maybe National is their natural partner…after all.

      Reply
      • Labour and Greens chose to put them into power in 2017. And will be badly tainted by it.

        If National even hint that they would still consider going into coalition with NZ First after this they would be trashed by voters.

        Reply
  6. A post at The BFD is very Cameron Slater-like (written or influenced by whoever used to post under ‘Cameron Slater’) aand backs NZ First and slams National:
    https://thebfd.co.nz/2019/11/brian-henry-puts-bridges-smith-on-notice/

    But it backfired as comments mainly slam Peters and NZ First.

    Reply
  7. Ray

     /  22nd November 2019

    The “mental health” episode is in the article and refers or smears the out going President (and supposed leaker) reasons for leaving the Party, plus some “me too” stuff.
    All straight from Whaleoil bs inside knowledge smearing playbook.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  22nd November 2019

      So smearing the Henry family, who had been involved in a major way with Forestry in NZ for 150 years ( NZFP) and the Gisborne proposal was just the start of a investment for a major ‘engineered wood’ factory to add value to out trees rather than just shipping out logs to Asia.

      What about the other claim in BFD
      “It’s all getting very whiffy indeed, especially as the National party has its own foundation which they use to wash donations by pretending people are donating to pay for a brick.

      As I said the other day about all the huffing and puffing , quoting that motor mouth Geddes about how partys ‘should work’ all the parties use Trusts or ‘Foundations’ in the background.
      Heres Nationals one
      https://www.nationalfoundation.org.nz/
      As usual Im right again.
      “We have established the National Foundation to strengthen the financial future of the National Party. It will operate as a capital-protected fund”

      a ‘BRICK’ IS $500 -$5000 but also want more than $10,000 which gets your name on the honours board – gee just like a head prefect at high school.

      Wonder how much the national Foundation rakes in each year …..no names given out for that

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  22nd November 2019

        Interesting.

        “We have established the National Foundation to strengthen the financial future of the National Party. It will operate as a capital-protected fund. This means contributions will never be removed from the fund. Instead, they will be invested with the proceeds ensuring a stable and diverse revenue stream to support our activities, and the capital will continue to benefit our Party for the long term.

        These activities will include not just our election campaigns, but also our Candidates’ College, the Dame Hilda Ross Foundation for the support of talented female candidates, and the Endurance Trust to support promising young leaders.

        The Foundation will also maintain ownership of the Party’s home, National House, for the benefit of the Party for many years to come.”

        Reply
  8. Once Jacinda gets wind of what’s going on, all hell will break loose. Everyone knows she runs a tight ship and this s**t won’t do.

    Reply
  9. lurcher1948

     /  22nd November 2019

    Damn bad luck for the righties,parliaments closed and this news will be old dog tucker in a weeks time,BaHaHaHa….Whinny rides again and think there could be a national party scandal approaching

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  22nd November 2019

      Easy, old timer. The only scandal you need to worry about is using Janola instead of turpentine to soak your ‘choppers.’ Whinny and your energy payment will be riding off into oblivion come the next election.😊

      Reply
      • lurcher1948

         /  22nd November 2019

        OK Boomer Corky,still got my hair and teeth at 70 yo although the little lady says i would make a great Father Christmas…and the equipment down below still works as the lord wanted,so lets now describe YOUR physical shortcomings

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  22nd November 2019

          Well, to be truthful, my 18 and 1/2” guns have shrunk to 18 ”. And my best deadlift weight has slipped from 390kgs to 340. Nothing a little remedial work won’t cure..I hope. I gets a little harder with age.

          Reply
  10. Gezza

     /  22nd November 2019

    Until illegality is proven there is no point in her doing anything other than what Helen Clark did when Winston landed her in a similar pickle – stay out of it & let the independent processes take their course.

    What else, realistically, could she be seriously expected to say or do?

    She went into coalition with Peters. Everyone who makes that choice has to live with the potential consequences at the next election.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  22nd November 2019

      Is there even a charge of illegality?
      My understanding is that it is perfectly…legal.

      Reply
  11. duperez

     /  22nd November 2019

    Someone directed me to some information about National Party MPs’ funding. The system must be very complicated. NZ First apparently has done something so terrible and corrupt that the brouhaha which is going on has got to the stage it has yet another party has a way of doing things which are apparently okay.

    So complicated that people such as Chris Bishop who demand transparency and suggest ill-deeds, confidently make assertions yet get money from sources in ways which apparently are squeaky clean.

    Sent here:

    ?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1197344986322178048&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fthestandard.org.nz%2Fhypocrites%2F

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  22nd November 2019

      Reed Fleming

      @reedfleming
      tepid views, which are all mine. he/him/comrade.

      No shite! Who would have guessed?

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  22nd November 2019

        Should I wondering if those tables are his? Do you think he made them up? Since they come from him (never heard of him and certainly not going to seek info about him) are they not real or have no validity?

        In Parliament this week (yesterday I think) specific numbers were quoted about funding of certain MPs. Maybe that was from this list.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  22nd November 2019

          I have no doubt the tables are real. I just enjoy how socialists sometimes parody themselves without noticing…even when they are trying to add a humorous twist to their utterances.

          Reply
  1. Brian Henry threatens Nick Smith and Guyon Espiner damages claim “as high as $30,000,000.00” — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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