National Business Review publisher Barry Colman is aiming to set up a meeting with the Serious Fraud Office to discuss the notice served on NBR by the SFO to seize a reporter's files and notes.
NBR had been given until 9am today to deliver the documents to the SFO's central Auckland office, and agree to an interview.
The deadline has now come and gone.
No files were handed over.
The SFO's request for tapes and files comes after a story in the NBR ran a story on 1 October regarding South Canterbury Finance. The story alleges that the brother-in-law of a SCF director was registered as the sole owner of the Hyatt Regency hotel hotel in Aucklnad, a hotel in which he had never set foot. Further details can be found here.
This development, and the announcement yesterday that the SFO is now investigating South Canterbury Finance as well as other companies owned by Allan Hubbard is both of interest and concern. Those who support Mr Hubbard (and we commend them for their unwavering loyalty) will see this as further evidence of a state-sponsored vendetta against him.
We're not sure what to make of this whole debacle surrounding Allan Hubbard and his companies and trusts. We believe that he is fundamentally an honest and honourable man. We wonder however if he's failed to keep pace with modern business reporting requirements. The information released by the Statutory Manager to date suggests that documentation has been less than adequate.
We wonder too whether some of those who have surrounded Allan Hubbard and been appointed to key positions within his companies have not shared his ethics. There are certainly some serious questions raised in what the NBR has alleged.
It will be interesting to see how this saga eventually plays out, but first and foremost, we will be interested to see NBR's response to the SFO's demands as the day evolves. It raises an interesting question between the rights of a media organisation to protect its sources and the rights of an investigating authority to fully investigate allegations made by that media outlet.
Watch this space ...
Hat-tip: Darren Rickard at Share Investor blog
UPDATE - 11.15am: The Herald reports that the NBR has agreed to hand documents over to the SFO as they are satisfied that none of their sources will be compromised. Interesting, NBR's website hasn't updated since 11.15am, when it was still reporting a stand-off between the parties!