Prominent businessman’s trial: ‘I believed that I had been drugged’ by rich-lister

A young man says he was drugged by a prominent New Zealand businessman before being indecently assaulted by the rich-lister.

The businessman, who has name suppression, is on trial in the High Court at Auckland, accused of indecently assaulting three men on separate occasions in the early 2000s, 2008 and 2016.

He is also charged with twice attempting to pervert the course of justice by offering a bribe for the 2016 complainant to drop their allegations.

The well-known man denies the charges.

Today, the court heard from a young man who met with the wealthy Kiwi at his Auckland home to discuss a business proposal in February 2008.

“I was really excited,” the young man recalled about the potential deal.

“People don’t respond to you and meet with you unless they’re serious. ‘This is a great sign, and it might just be a formality really’,” he recalled thinking.

After arriving at the businessman’s home a staff member led him to a drawing room where the rich-lister was sitting.

“It had the feel of mahogany, dark wood and books, desks, lamps,” the young man told the court.

“He immediately began to make a drink.”

The businessman – facing a cabinet – mixed a gin and tonic for the man, the court heard.

But a discussion with unusual tone then began, the young man said.

The businessman allegedly said: “Why should I support you?”

The young man said the line of questioning made him feel like he was on the back foot and had to convince him he was worthy of his money.

“That’s a question more about power balance and I’d never experienced that before in a meeting like this.”

The man said he accepted another gin before the businessman instructed him: “By the way, you’re staying for dinner.”

“I didn’t particular want to stay for dinner,” the young man recalled. “I was feeling strange about the tone…I’d already eaten dinner.”

But, he told the court, when you’re in a business meeting you are thinking about the deal and the potential capital support.

“The dinner also was strange,” he recalled.

“[The businessman] was very embarrassed by the food that was being served.”

Chicken, green beans and Maggi gravy in a jug, he remembered.

The businessman, he said, explained the chef had left recently and there was someone in the kitchen scrambling the food together.

Questions by the rich-lister then turned personal, the young man said.

“He was asking me questions about my partner, how long we’d been together, my sexuality. Questions along those lines.”

A glass of wine was drunk with dinner but soon after the man said he began to feel dizzy.

“I was beginning to feel nauseous… Less control over my body, I didn’t feel good.”

It was a feeling he hadn’t felt before or since, the court heard.

The businessman took the young man around his home, showing him some of the bedrooms, the complainant said.

“I was really strongly feeling by this point that I needed to leave,” he said.

“I was starting to feel just terrible and also because the tone of where things were going was really uncomfortable and creeping me out. Every cell in your body is telling you it’s time to get out, it’s time to go.

“Then [the businessman] came up from behind me and put his hand on my backside and squeezed it and whispered, said in my ear: ‘God you’ve got such a sweet arse’.”

The young man said he froze, while the businessman also started to kiss the back of his neck and said: “Why does there have to be a [partner]”.

“My only motivation was to try and get out and get home,” the complainant told the court. “Because I was afraid of what could happen.”

He said the businessman was displaying “utterly creepy behaviour” and following him around the house as he attempted to find a phone and call for a taxi.

“He didn’t give me any help in this huge house which I didn’t know.

“The next thing I remember is being in a taxi, trying not to vomit, and then arriving home.”

The young man said his partner was shocked at his state when he saw him before he vomited several times.

The following morning he began to recall the evening prior.

“I believed that I had been drugged,” he said.

The young man said he wanted no further contact with the businessman and didn’t talk about the deal again.

“Throughout the years since this happened [my partner] and I would often say to each other that I should really go to the police about it.

“But I just wasn’t ready to do it. I just wanted to not think about it and carry on with life and my work.”

In 2017, however, he learned the businessman had been charged with indecent assault and decided to come forward to police, the court heard.

The businessman’s lawyer, David Jones QC, suggested the man “blew it” and he needed an excuse when the deal didn’t go through so he fabricated his story.

“I’ve never made up stories like this, about being assaulted, being drugged,” the complainant replied.

Last week the jury heard from another man allegedly assaulted at the businessman’s home in the early 2000s during a meeting.

The prominent Kiwi’s manager, who also has name suppression, is on trial alongside him and jointly faces a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice for attempting to dissuade the 2016 complainant.

A third defendant, a well-known entertainer, has already pleaded guilty to two charges for his efforts to have the same complainant withdrawal their allegations

He is due to be sentenced next month.

The trial is expected to last about five weeks.

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