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Labour demands Government explain equipping Saudi to tune of $7.5m

The Government paid a Hawke's Bay company to equip a farm in Saudi Arabia with millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded gear.

It's the latest revelation by ONE News about the Government's dealings with a rich farmer in Saudi Arabia, and has prompted a "please explain" from Labour.

When taxpayers gave sheep and farming equipment, with a total cost of $7.5 million, to the Saudi businessman upset at New Zealand's live sheep export ban, a New Zealand business was needed to get it all to Saudi Arabia.

The Government gave that job to Hawke's Bay brothers David and Jonathan Brownrigg, who've been doing business with the Saudi man for 25 years.

Labour's Trade spokesperson, David Parker says the Government needs to explain this, "otherwise it looks really murky".

"Given the closeness between the tenderers and their related business's interests in Saudi Arabia, it's all the more imperative that the Government answer questions to show that this tender was fair and transparent," Mr Parker says.

The letter ONE News has shows just how close Brownrigg Agriculture is to Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf and his business partner, George Assaf.

It's written by David Brownrigg on their behalf to Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

It says Mr Brownrigg, Mr Assaf and Mr McCully met in November 2011 to discuss "the resumption of a specialised live export sheep trade".

Mr Brownrigg warns if that doesn't happen Mr Khalaf "would have no option but to seek commercial redress".

Two years after that meeting, the tender. The final proposals were in from Brownriggs and industry heavyweights like Deloitte and PGG Wrightson. It was up to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Enterprise and "interested Saudi parties" to evaluate them.

In a statement, Foreign Affairs says the Saudi businessman had no say over who won the tender process, but it does admit that it kept him in the loop from time to time about progress. It also says that Brownrigg Agriculture did disclose previous business dealings with the Saudi man.

Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers Union says the purpose of the tender process is to give taxpayers value for money. "Why on earth was the Government reporting back to this chap in Saudi Arabia?" he asks.

Brownrigg sent ONE News a statement saying, "We are good people to co-ordinate setting up the farm because of our farming expertise, breeding research and deep networks in the industry."

Since the tender, Mr Khalaf has bought quarter shares in a Brownrigg brothers' company, which in turn owns nine other companies.

ONE News has details on the relationship between the Saudi farmer and a Kiwi company. Source: 1 NEWS


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