Details of couple's $100k donation to National revealed in defamation trial against Labour leader Andrew Little

A court has today heard about a $100,000 donation given to the National Party by a man suing Labour leader Andrew Little for defamation.

The owners of the Scenic Hotel Group claim the Labour leader defamed them in the media last year. Source: 1 NEWS

Earl and Lani Hagaman claim Mr Little made an inference of corruption when he questioned the timing of the $100,000 donation Mr Hagaman made to National, and his Scenic Hotel winning a contract to run a Niue resort. They are seeking $2.3 million in damages.

The Labour leader stayed tight lipped while heading into court this morning. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Little called on the Auditor General to investigate the donation.

The couple's lawyer, Richard Fowler, told the jury of three women and nine men in the High Court at Wellington that Mr Little released a media statement and several comments in the media which were "well prepared" and "not off the cuff".

He says Mr Little told reporters that "it looks too cosy" and "there's something about this whole deal that really stinks".

Mr Fowler says his clients are worried about what impact Mr Little's comments have had on their reputation, given they're "very successful players in tourism".

"We only have one reputation and once that's lost, it's very hard to recover," Mr Fowler says.

The court also heard that Earl Hagaman was now 91, and that because of his poor health he was unable to attend the trial or give evidence.

Mrs Hagaman says her husband has a prelechemic blood disorder and is critically anemic.

He suffers from heart failure and recently broke his left pelvis and "has a few weeks left" to live.

The couple have been married for 25 years and have three children. 

Mrs Hagaman told the court that her husband had donated money to Labour, National, ACT and New Zealand First before, and that he would be critical and complementary of both Labour and National Governments.

Mrs Hagaman says her husband had been impressed with John Key's performance as Tourism Minister and wanted to give National a $100k donation before the 2014 election.

She says after contact was made with the party, its president Peter Goodfellow came to their home for an hour long meeting.

Mrs Hagaman says they talked about the economy, tourism and "Kim Dotcom getting into power", before she wrote out a cheque for $100k.

Andrew Little's earlier apology

On March 24, 2017, Mr Little apologised, admitted he was wrong, and offered to pay a "substantial" amount in legal costs.

"Today I want to publicly apologise unreservedly to Mr Hagaman for any hurt, embarrassment or adverse reflection on his reputation which may have resulted from my various media statements. I have offered that apology to the Hagamans," the statement read.

But that was too little, too late for the Hagamans, who said that "Mr Little has had 12 months to apologise, and in the interim we've spent more than $200,000 in legal fees preparing for this case."

The court action continues.

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