Let the Sun Shine on the Saudi Sheep Deal
by Brendon Wilson
TINZ Board Member
Information flows about the Saudi importation of New Zealand sheep are developing momentum now that a number of credible commentators are uncovering further details.
On 2 July, The Nation TV3’s Phil Vine brought new information to the New Zealand public, including
- A key Saudi businessman who said that legal action against the New Zealand Government was not contemplated by the Saudi partners. This contrasts with Minister McCully's statement to Parliament that there could be a Claim of between $20 million and $30 million.
- Confirmation by Saudi partners that New Zealand’s first (seriously unsuccessful) shipment of 900 live sheep, was intended to be just a trial for far larger continued shipments of 45,000 sheep!
The Nation described the nature of the transactions.
- Saudi billionaire Sheik Hamood Al Khalaf had invested in New Zealand to send live sheep to Saudi Arabia but was extremely disappointed that the intention was stymied by both governments.
- Despite New Zealand’s long-term banning of live sheep exports for slaughter, it seems clear that Minister McCully thought that finding an innovative way of evading this rule for Sheik Hamood Al Khalaf and his partners would help New Zealand gain Saudi government support for a free trade deal. The innovation included spending $6million on an ‘Agrihub’ in Saudi Arabia to promote New Zealand's agricultural prowess, and transporting 900 of the Sheik’s own sheep from New Zealand to Saudi Arabia in 2014 by plane at a cost of $1.5 million.
- Additionally, Minister McCully claimed the Sheik was about to take a legal case against New Zealand for $20-30million over his lost earnings. MFAT paid him $4million to prevent legal action.
- Minister McCully and Prime Minister Key have continually denied that anything underhand or outside New Zealanders’ expectations or legal requirement has occurred, or that parliament (and cabinet) have been misled in any answers to concerns: “move along now, nothing going on here”. The Auditor General's investigation is on-going.
In light of these recent revelations, supported by interviews and documents, it is even more critical that the Auditor-General’s investigation into these transactions is completed as soon as possible so that the sun may shine and bring openness to a subject which could tarnish New Zealand’s international trade reputation.