The Sunday Star-Times

Sunday Star-Times – friend of the crims

Some free advice for the Sunday Star Times.

If you want to stop losing readers at an alarming rate, quit writing stories which are sympathetic to hardened criminals, while at the same time avoiding any discussion about the victims of their crimes.

In the latest example¬†we hear lots about the crim’s life being ruined, but not a thing about the misery she caused.

A violent criminal has had her 15-year jail sentence reduced by three years after judges deemed she was too young for such harsh punishment.

But Amy Jayne Opetaia’s 12-year sentence means she could still spend more time behind bars than many killers and the country’s worst fraudsters.

Opetaia was 19 at the time of her Bonnie-and-Clyde style crime spree with then boyfriend Quentin Tinau Stephens. The pair’s drug-fuelled crimes included burglary, kidnapping and a series of violent street robberies.¬† Read more »

Sunday Star-Times following Truth again, as HRC continues to act for a pedophile

The Sunday Star-Times is following Truth again, this time over the dirty pedophile running a Taupo motel that is described as ”¬†the perfect choice for the whole family”.

We spoke to the pedophile earlier in the week so it is good to see Sunday Star-Times reporters buying Truth so they can follow up. We named the pedophile, we published his photo and we named his place of work.

Meanwhile the Sunday Star-Times does add a tiny bit more to the story, it appears he has lied to the Privacy Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

The serial paedophile at the centre of a name suppression stoush between the Human Rights Commission and the Sensible Sentencing Trust appears to have lied on oath about his job status and where he was living.

The man also lied about his identity when approached by the Sunday Star-Times last week.

The paedophile, who claims he has name suppression for sexually assaulting young girls but cannot produce a court record to prove it, denied he was the man in question when confronted at his workplace.¬† Read more »

Incompetent business reporting by the Sunday Star-Times

A Guest Post by Whaleoil Business Correspondent – Winslow Taggart:

The Sunday Star-Times committed an outrageous slur on one of NZ’s best run companies today, by linking Ryman Healthcare to industrial relations issues in the retirement village industry.

In fact, by the end of the article, it turns out that Ryman has above average wages in the industry, has no industrial relations issues, and is only in the spotlight because it makes a lot of money – more than anyone else in the industry.

The Slowly-Sinking-Tabloid breathlessly reports that Ryman has made $84m in profit, slyly implying that this is because service worker wages are being ripped off.

In fact, Ryman’s large profits are because of its winning formula of constructing its apartment and village complexes in-house, building to scale (their villages are larger compared to other retirement village operators) and gaining profit on the re-sale of units. For those who don’t know, retirement village operators are mostly property developers who also happen to provide health care to residents. Much of their cash flow comes from unit sales and crucially – re-sales. Wages for nursing care would be a relatively minor part of Ryman’s cost structure.

The Slowly Sinking Tabloid also gets a nice hearty quote from a deluded union hack on the evils of Ryman making money. Says Alistair Duncan from the Service and Food Workers Union:

“Is aged care a service to the community, or is it a business? If you’re making a profit, why is that, when aged care is an extension of the health care we give people?”

The SFWU should STFU. On his logic, we should start underpaying doctors and surgeons because they profit from healthcare too. The health care system would fall over tomorrow if the unions decided health funding priorities.

The real reason the SFWU hates Ryman is because Ryman pays its staff more relative to other retirement village operators Рand as a result, there is practically NO SFWU or other union presence in Ryman Healthcare villages. Other operators who pay less, like Oceania, have a strong union presence and recent industrial relations unrest.

Come to think of it, that’s probably why Ryman do so well – no nasty marxists to fuck things up and make life unpleasant for residents.

Utterly incompetent reporting by Michelle Robinson. She should hang her head in shame.

Ports problems all Len’s fault

The Sunday Star-Times has revealed exactly why it is that Len Brown is running silent on the Ports dispute. It is because it has all pretty much stemmed from his demands for monopoly rents from the Port:

Auckland Council’s demand for a “monopoly rent” from Ports of Auckland is facing a backlash from business as well as from the unions.

The political manoeuvring behind the council’s drive to double Ports of Auckland’s profitability were revealed on Tuesday night when council chief executive Doug McKay and mayor Len Brown gave presentations to a meeting of the Auckland Property Investors Association at which they outlined their position on the port’s future and the industrial action it is facing.

McKay said a review of the council-owned port’s performance was undertaken shortly after the new super-city was formed in November 2010, comparing it with other ports around the world.

At the time, the port was earning a return on investment of about 6 per cent. The report, which the council refused to release to the Sunday Star-Times last week, recommended the port should be able to double its profitability to achieve a 10 to 12 per cent return “at the very least,” McKay said.

On the basis of that advice, the council’s “political wing” ‚Äď its elected representatives ‚Äď set the port company the goal of lifting its return on investment to 10 to 12 per cent over the next three to five years. That led the company to review its costs and propose new working arrangements for its wharfies, leading to the recent series of strikes on the wharves.

While McKay expressed disappointment that negotiations between the port company and unions had broken down, he did not appear surprised.

“I keep reminding Len [Brown] that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette,” he said.

Well, Len Brown has gone up in my estimation for wanting to break union eggs to make a port company omelette. Who would have ever dreamed of a Labour mayor breaking a union?

Facts about farm sales

The Sunday Star-Times has the facts on farm sales to foreigners:

Fears that China is gobbling up New Zealand land are misplaced, official figures show.

Americans, Canadians and even Liechtensteinians are buying far more land.

Figures released by the Overseas Investment Office show that of the 872,313 hectares of gross land sold to foreign interests over the past five years, only 223ha were sold to Chinese.

People from the landlocked principality of Liechtenstein had purchased 10 times more land than the Chinese - 2,144ha in the same period.

The top buyers were the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Israel. The United States had 194 purchases for a total of 193,208ha.

Even when you add the Westpac farms formerly owned by the Crafars China is still lagging behind the round eyes in land investment in New Zealand.

Where was Labour’s concern as all the land sold in the previous 5 years to non-Chinese? Where was Winston Peters as seppos, canuks, poms, ockers and¬†the¬†evil Juice stole or birthright at market rates?

Oh that’s right…those sales are ok because they look like us.

The thing that galls me is that everyone opposed to these sales thought nothing of the fact that they were privately owned, and were like any other private sale sold to the highest bidder. I suspect that those who cried the loudest had the least.

Labour now has a bizarre policy that sales to foreigners are ok if they live here…and after all the racist outrage over the past month you have to wonder why any rich lister Chinese investor would even bother.

The missing component in all this is the fact that if a Kiwi buyer bought the farms…oh I don’t know…someone like Michael Fay…the purchase would be highly leveraged and the “profits”, such as they are, would flow offshore anyway to the Aussie banks that financed the purchase.

As for the facetious arguments that Chinese buyers of land won’t spend money in new Zealand…well just where are they supposing they are going to vet services from, or fencing supplies, or mechanics for their farm implements, or tankers to pick up the milk, or drivers to drive the tankers?

Turangi child rapist gang connected

The Turangi rapist is due for sentencing shortly, but it has been revealed that he has gang connections:

The teenager who raped a five-year-old girl in a Turangi holiday park has gang connections.

The Sunday Star-Times has been told the 16-year-old, who has pleaded guilty to the attack, was motivated by the possibility of securing entry into a gang.

Because of the suppression orders around the case, the gang cannot be named.

The Star-Times understands the teen’s father had been associated with the gang, but not since the attack, which shocked New Zealand in the lead-up to Christmas. The boy’s father cannot be named for legal reasons.

The claims were made by several sources close to the investigation.

“The family and the boy are connected to a gang,” one said. “The family is gang-associated. It’s not just the father.”

Another source said: “The family are well-recognised as being what they are … rotten apples. Where are you heading in society when you have this underbelly?”

No surprises there.

The Star-Times has been shown a photo that shows him posing, shirtless, with a gang nickname and an anti-police slogan clearly visible.

Public outrage has continued since his arrest.

They are talking about his photo from his Facebook page:

More on Dodgy Polls, Ctd

In the last week of the campaign Horizon released a poll.

These are their results:

ACT New Zealand

3.2%

Conservative Party of New Zealand

4.8%

Green Party

12.4%

Labour Party

27.6%

Mana Party

2.1%

Maori Party

1.2%

National Party

32.6%

New Zealand First Party

10.1%

United Future

0.9%

These are the actual results:

ACT – 1% out by 2.2%
Conservative – 2.76% out by 2.04%
Green – 10.62% out by 1.78%
Labour – 27.13%
Mana – 1% out by 1.1%
Maori – 1.35%
National – 48% out by a massive 15.4%
NZ First – 6.81% out by 3.29
United Future – 0.61%

Horizon Polling, The Sunday Star-Times and Radio Live have had their credibility smashed by the election results. Reputable polling companies have hteir reputations enhanced.

Dodgy polling companies should be hounded from the industry, they are an embarrassment.

Sounds like a good guy

The Sunday Star-Times has a profile on one of the candidates in the National Party Rodney selection battle, Mark Mitchell. I have blogged extensively on the skulduggery going on up there with delegate stacking at local and regional level in order to favour two candidates, and I also blogged about the dirty tricks and rumour-mongering that was going on.

The SST¬†article covers all of those aspects and sheds some light on the background of Mark Mitchell that shows just how scurrilous those rumours were.¬†I have met Mark Mitchell only once, ironically at the Botany victory party, where some of the rumour-mongers were also in attendance but wouldn’t speak with me. Hell even Peter Goodfellow talked with me that night.

Anyway this bloke seems to have the goods. Decorated hero, tough on crime, self-made man, tough under pressure and handles adversity well. The selection battle just got interesting.

Former cop Mark Mitchell’s exploits in the Middle East sound like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster ‚Äď but has he got what it takes to make it as a politician?

HE’S HAD violent confrontations with gangs and criminals during 14 years in the New Zealand police force. He’s spent eight years as a top international hostage negotiator, at one point fighting for his life in a five-day siege in Iraq, a story which is set to feature in a movie made by Brad Pitt. He’s built a multimillion-dollar business from scratch.

He’s engaged to Peggy Bourne, the widow of Kiwi rally ace Possum Bourne.

Now Mark Mitchell is chasing a political career, and hopes to succeed Lockwood Smith in the safe National seat of Rodney.

That’s one thing John Key hasn’t done! Getting a movie made of his exploits by Brad Pitt.

Wouldn’t the 42-year-old find parliament a bit, um, dull?

MAYBE NOT, if things continue as they’ve started. Mitchell was one of five people contesting the National Party candidacy for Rodney when the selection process was abruptly postponed earlier this month amid allegations of delegate stacking.

That dirty laundry was aired, but there’s been little publicity about a smear campaign against Mitchell. Documents were circulated questioning his work in the Middle East, appearing to suggest he was involved in a Muslim-funded Somalian private army. Things were getting nasty: cue the false start.

What the hell was going on in Rodney? The would-be-politician is already practised in the art of diplomacy.

“I’m not going to comment on that. All I’ll say is that any behaviour that can be seen to try to control an outcome, well, we shouldn’t accept that.”

Those rumours were particularly nasty and at the time very hard to counter because of the ban on speaking to the media. The ones spreading the rumours are well versed at these sorts of tactics, having employed then successfully over 30 years in politics.

It hasn’t deterred him. When nominations close for the second time tomorrow, Mitchell will be back on the candidate list.

Good to see he is tough and able to man-up.

“I was lost for a bit. I enjoyed the physical work, but my grandfather and family had instilled in me a strong sense of duty and I decided to join the police.”

Mitchell’s 14-year career was served in Auckland, Rotorua, Gisborne and Taupo, and he quickly became used to the physical danger. He and his police dog Czar were stabbed by a samurai sword-wielding criminal in Rotorua; both recovered to be awarded a police bravery commendation.

A decorated hero! Now that is quite a bit different from the rumours. I bet about now there is a few face-slaps going on with some people who should ahve known better.

In Gisborne, there were many violent confrontations with Mongrel Mobsters. In one incident, he and another officer were surrounded by 30 gang members. They talked themselves out of certain trouble, an early sign of Mitchell’s negotiation skills.

Mitchell left the force in 2003. He was carrying several injuries and decided to pursue new interests. He intended training polo ponies; he ended up an international security contractor.

Sounds like he could handle the inept machinations of longtime party hacks easily. He could even probably handle the Labour caucus meetings right now as well.

British kidnap and ransom risk-management firm Control Risks had been contracted by the British government to set up the security programme for the interim coalition government in Iraq. Someone he knew worked there and wanted Mitchell on board. His job would be to protect the diplomats and officials working for the interim government.

“It seemed like an interesting opportunity, and there was this sense of history in the making. What was happening in the Middle East was having a pretty profound effect on the rest of the world.”

Mitchell faced daily threats at the Coalition Provisional Authority Government base in An Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq.

The work involved transporting government officials to meetings around the country and protecting the sites where they lived. He was shot at, and his vehicles were blown up in roadside bomb attacks, but he was proud that no-one was hurt or killed on his watch.

In 2004 he did a stint training Iraqi security forces, including the National Guard and police, in crisis management, before deciding to go home for good.

Hmmm…that is really different from¬†the¬†rumours. He’s supposed to be a mercenary, but it turns out he was working for the British Government and the Iraqi Provisional Authority. More face-slapping from the gossippers.

BUT THE draw of the Middle East and the work pulled him back. The next call was from the Kuwait global logistics firm supplying food to the military forces in Iraq.

Agility Logistics was being targeted by Al Qaeda and the militia, and many staff were killed. They wanted Mitchell to improve security.

“Security was being subcontracted and I discovered fairly early on that when the heat was on, our people weren’t a priority. One week, we lost 32 staff.”

So the company set up subsidiary Threat Management Group to take security in-house. As CEO and shareholder, Mitchell grew the company from eight staff to about 500 in the first year.

The quality of their work soon won them top-level contracts, including protecting crucial infrastructures like ports, and keeping supply chains open.

Mitchell also became adept at kidnap and ransom negotiations, dealing with more than 100 hostage negotiations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Darfur.

One of the more haunting jobs was working alongside The Hague scientists charged with gathering evidence for Saddam Hussein’s war crimes trial.

Mitchell’s job was to protect the scientists, setting up a safe camp “in the middle of nowhere” next to mass graves, open them to allow the scientists access to evidence, and close them again.

“That was a very emotional job. We were confronted with the badly decomposed bodies of children clinging to their mothers. They’d just been bulldozed into the graves. Awful.”

And working for the UN on war crimes trials….really not a mercenary now. If I was one of the gossippers I would be really worried about a law suit about now. They were so far wrong it isn’t really funny anymore.

The closest Mitchell and his men came to being killed was in 2004, during a five-day siege of the An Nasiriyah compound, home to diplomats, officials, coalition forces and security staff.

The uprising Shi’a militia, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, was putting coalition forces under pressure across the country. The Italian-controlled compound was surrounded and under sustained attack. Mitchell was charged with defending it.

“They’d hit us during the day with mortar fire, and at night mount a physical attack. My team’s responsibility was the roof. We were very exposed. It was hot, dusty. We didn’t get much sleep and we had to ration our food. I saw every human emotion over those days.”

Armed with AK47s and two 50-calibre machine guns, they kept the militia at bay until coalition forces regained control. Their efforts would later be rewarded with a commendation from the Italian government.

The compound was evacuated and within 48 hours, Mitchell was having a barbecue and talking to his neighbours in Taupo. “That was surreal. I couldn’t really talk to people about it, as it was hard to comprehend.”

Did he kill anyone? “We were fighting for our lives, and the lives of the diplomats. There were casualties on both sides.” That’s all he’ll say on the matter.

During the siege, Mitchell worked closely with British Governor Rory Stewart, who headed the compound’s diplomat contingent. Stewart has made the leap into politics, and is a Conservative MP for Penrith, England. Stewart wrote a book on his time in Iraq, and Brad Pitt’s production company has bought the rights to his story.

Not only a commendation award for the Police but now one from¬†the¬†Italian Government. Everyone who was handed printouts by un-named party officials will now be wondering just what their game was. Clearly it wasn’t about telling the truth, or even about making sure the best candidate got selected. They now appear more interested in feather-bedding their mates than the best interests of the party.

He is proud of his achievements, and believes he has the skills to help New Zealand prosper. “I’ve run a successful international business, and have worked closely with foreign governments and officials. I have a strong global network and have built up excellent working knowledge of how different emerging markets work.

“I’m aware of the trade channels and where the opportunities are. A big part of our continued growth and prosperity relies on exports, and opening up those trade channels.”Some of those global contacts come from his volunteer work as security adviser to a World Economic Forum initiative which sees emergency logistics teams deployed into humanitarian disaster areas to ensure critical supplies get through.

Last year he oversaw missions to Haiti after the earthquake and Pakistan after the floods, and helped evacuate refugees from Lebanon.

Right, so decorated police hero in NZ and awarded for bravery by the Italian Government, and now he also has helped in humanitarian disaster zones and evacuating refugees for free. Unlike Helen Clark who is a disaster tourist for the UNDP, Mark Mitchell rolls up his sleeves and actually helps those in need.

Sounds like a bloody good guy, I’ll be watching very carefully what happens in the Rodney selection now. The National party can’t afford to put low level or even high level party hacks into parliament and leave far better qualified, capable candidates on the sidelines. I await the new delegates list and the results of pre-selection with interest.

Is Comeskey in hiding now?

SST journalist Jonathan Marshall keeps delivering the goods. Today’s victim is Chris Comeskey and I just bet he is on the run tonight.

The main part of the article is about his dodgy dealing with legal aid, but the second half outlines a little bit of history and some revelations that my contacts tell me have quite possibly put Chris Comeskey on a list.

Waiouru Medals theftDESPITE THE fact his role in returning the war medals catapaulted Comeskey on to centre stage, many close to him believe it was the worst thing that happened to him. “The fact of the matter is he accomplished what no one else could, and that was getting those medals back,” says a friend. “Instead he was pilloried.”

The public welcomed the safe return of the national treasures but bristled at the fact it was achieved by paying the culprits a $200,000 reward.

Comeskey’s role in the negotiations cast him in an unfavourable light to many, highlighting his extensive underworld connections and unsavoury contacts, raising a question mark for some over his integrity.

The lawyer made no secret of his displeasure at being uninvited from the official ceremony marking the return of the medals. But he has been less transparent about what benefits, if any, he stood to gain.

The official amount is $200,000, but my understanding from my sources is Comeskey only coughed a hundy to the gang connections and told them that the media reports were wrong. Now Jonathan Marshal has documents to show that Comeskey cut a deal for $200,000 for the crims and $15,000 for himself.

In February 2008, he dismissed an on-air suggestion by Close Up host Mark Sainsbury that he should have got a slice of the reward money, saying: “I would not have wanted to benefit from it. In fact, if there wasn’t a reward, I would have been quite happy to fund the return of the medals myself.

The Sunday Star-Times has obtained a two-page contract between Comeskey and Police Commissioner Howard Broad that shows the lawyer was to be paid a fee for his services up to $15,000 for returning the medals, something that came as a surprise to Hirschfeld. “I had no idea of that at all. He never gave the impression he benefited financially.”

Whoopsy, caught lying. Strike one, lied about his fee. Does that mean he lied about how much the Commissioner coughed too?

On TV3 that same evening, Comeskey had told John Campbell: “I never once asked for immunity, I didn’t want to place the police in that position…I made it plain to the people I was dealing with that I could not advise them on how to avoid or escape detection.

But official documents quote Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Bensemann, the officer in charge of the case, saying Comeskey “suggested various possibilities in exchange for the return of the medals, including immunity from prosecution and ceasing the investigation”.

Whoopsy, caught lying again. Strike two, lied about the immunity, perhaps he lied about the amount as well?

My sources in the crime world tell me that Comeskey might well find himself on a list he really would rather not be on. Stiffing gang members of their rewards isn’t the smartest thing in the world to do, even if you are their lawyer. The police don’t take kindly to fraud and the gangs even less so.