The Post

1080 blackmail ‘for financial gain’

- LAURA WALTERS, TRACY WATKINS and GERARD HUTCHING

FINANCIAL gain, rather than environmen­talism, appears to have been the motivation behind an alleged attempt to blackmail the Government into abandoning the use of 1080.

A 60-year-old businessma­n appeared in Manukau District Court yesterday and was granted name suppressio­n. He was charged with two counts of attempted blackmail.

His identity was suppressed by Judge David McNaughton after submission­s from Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker.

Charge sheets alleged the blackmail was carried out for financial gain to the man.

The accused has been involved with a range of companies, including one that involves pest control.

He also developed an alternativ­e poison to control possum population­s.

Reasons for the suppressio­n could not be published, and the interim order would last until at least April next year, the judge said.

No pleas were entered and the defendant was remanded in custody by consent for the next two weeks.

He was due back in court on October 28, when he is expected to plead to the charges.

In March, it was revealed that Fonterra and Federated Farmers had received threatenin­g letters last November, along with milk packages that tested positive for the poison.

The letters threatened to contaminat­e infant formula and other products if New Zealand did not cease to use the poison by the end of March. It also threatened to disclose the matter publicly.

The Department of Conservati­on widely uses 1080 to control pests such as possums, rats and stoats.

Police Commission­er Mike Bush made the announceme­nt of the arrest at a press conference in Auckland early yesterday afternoon.

At this stage police believed the accused allegedly acted alone, Bush said.

Police had carried out search warrants in Rangitikei and Auckland.

The investigat­ion had been one of the biggest by police in recent years, costing more than $3 million and involving 35 fulltime staff.

More than 2600 people had been considered as part of Operation Concord, with over 60 ‘‘significan­t persons of interest’’ approached for interviews.

Prime Minister John Key welcomed the arrest. The Government had always thought it would be highly likely to be a hoax ‘‘but with that potential of the person being out there, and therefore a remote risk that it could have been carried out, it’s deeply worrying’’.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) chief executive Martyn Dunne said parents should be confident in the safety of infant formula.

New Zealand had a world class food safety system, he said, and ‘‘massive numbers’’ of testing regimes were put in place.

MPI and manufactur­ers had carried out 150,000 batch tests and retailers had worked hard to check that stock had not been tampered with during the threat.

Testing was still being undertaken by manufactur­ers but MPI and police believed there was no longer a threat to the public.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said Fonterra was pleased to hear of an arrest.

He thanked police and MPI, and said Fonterra wished to acknowledg­e ‘‘the significan­t joint industry response to this threat’’.

Massey University marketing professor Henry Chung said the arrest would present a favourable image of New Zealand in markets where our food was sold because it showed the police had continued to pursue the case long after people had forgotten about it.

 ??  ?? Fonterra and Federated Farmers received threatenin­g letters last November, along with milk packages that tested positive for 1080 poison.
Fonterra and Federated Farmers received threatenin­g letters last November, along with milk packages that tested positive for 1080 poison.

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