Ghahraman not misleading public

Today it has emerged that Green List Member of Parliament Golriz Ghahraman allegedly defended suspected participants in the Rwandan Genocide. It also emerged that in the reaction to this news, there are a frighteningly large number of people who either cannot or will not understand that defendants in court cases – big or small – have a right to a fair trial just like anyone else.

Not surprisingly the right-leaning commentators are jumping up and down. On articles on Facebook about this story, there have been people calling for Ms Ghahraman to resign. Others have suggested she should go back to Iran. Many of them I think have a thinly disguised contempt for an Iranian-New Zealand woman who has fled persecution and managed to build a successful life in New Zealand and established herself as a respectable person in the legal circuit. The accusations that she cleaned her Wikipedia article are not surprising in the least as anyone can try to amend it and sometimes information is put up that is not from a verified source. If Ms Ghahraman actually did do that, she did it at her own discretion and would have known full well the ramifications just like any other educated person attempting such an act.

The outrage that has been spouting on Facebook seems rather misplaced as well. It is almost as if it is some sort of unpardonable offence to be on the defence team for person accused of activities of a genocidal nature. It is almost as if ensuring that the accused bad guys are somehow not entitled by the reckoning of these commentators to a fair trial like any other human being is.

Where is the justice if for the victims if the accused are not put to trial so they can defend themselves and let the jury in a court of law determine whether or not they are guilty? Would these people prefer that an innocent person is found guilty by flimsy association whilst the ones who carried the mass murders, the rapes, the mutilation and everything else that went on continues on their not so merry way?

Ms Ghahraman would have seen injustice in her time in Iran and possibly in New Zealand as well. She might have seen criminals getting off free and continuing their crimes because the victims were too scared to come forward, particularly if the perpetrator was in some sort of position of power at the time of the offences. Who wins then? Not the victims. But nor do they win if an innocent person is tried, convicted and punished for something they did not do.

Sometimes third world countries are not suitable locations to have the trials of suspected war criminals or genocide participants. It may be because the country is still too unstable and a trial might open up wounds that are just starting to heal. It might be that the local judiciary is not in a position to carry out its responsibilities or not.

But does that mean Ms Ghahraman should be ashamed of defending a person who was later convicted? No. As a lawyer involved in a trial if you are not on the prosecution you will be on the defence. It would have been good experience for her and as long as she does the job to the honest best of her ability, conducts herself in a professional manner and complies with any court protocols, then I have two words and two words only: WELL DONE.

Is the Harvey Weinstein case the catalyst needed for abuse survivors?

Angelina Jolie. Anna Paquin. Allegedly sexually abused at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. The Hollywood producer best known for a range of films such as Kill Bill Vol. 3 and Teaching Mrs Tingle has been accused of abusing actors working with him on films.

Mr Weinstein is finished. Even if he is found to be totally innocent and that all of these ladies who have come forward and said he molested them are shown to be wrong, it will destroy him and his career. His company has fired him, which tells me they are taking the allegations seriously. Mr Weinstein is being investigated for 5 separate allegations of sexual misconduct and has now got a total of 40 accusers arrayed against him.

But here is the thing. Granted nothing has yet been proven the number of ladies from Hollywood and elsewhere coming forward and saying that Harvey Weinstein harassed them whilst working with him, are too many and too credible to be dismissed. None of these ladies as far as I can gather is out for money or revenge. They are simply coming forward because a social change is happening – the New York Times expose has done the job it was intended to do. It has shone a light into one of Hollywoods darkest spots and women are coming forward. A threshhold where women are simply standing up and saying “no more – he hurt me, like he hurt others and I am not standing for it”.

We need to give these ladies a fair chance to prove their allegations. We need a fair chance for any others who have been abused to come forward and say so, to tell the police – if they are prepared to go that far – and let the world know the real scale of Mr Weinstein’s offending.

But there are two huge flaws here. Mr Weinstein has completely denied all of the allegations. He has checked himself into his own luxury rehabilitation unit, which is not a good sign as it most probably has none of the parameters of a successful unit. And he is likely to be using his own money to fund it, meaning he has a degree of control over what he does and does not do in terms of recommended treatment. He could even simply pay off the employees.

Will Harvey Weinstein’s troubles be the catalyst for women across all professions to come forward and say they were abused? As horrible as the suggestion is, lets hope so. Lets get a true measure of the magnitude of the problem. Let us stop denying this goes on. We know it does

But let us go one step further. Men have been abused as well. Their numbers are unknown at this this point and this may have to do with the extreme stigma attached with coming forward and the lack of social assistance dealing with the mental consequences – it might have happened decades ago, but the memories might as clear as if the offending had just happened.

Let us stop beating about the bush. We have a sexual abuse crisis in New Zealand as well and we need to acknowledge it. We need to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. If there are perpetrators of the dastardly types of crimes that Mr Weinstein has been accused of in New Zealand industries, they need to be ferreted out and brought to justice. The abuse survivors who had the horror of working with these people deserve nothing less.

Addressing banking sector concerns in N.Z.

I remember the onset of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis all too clearly. In the space of about two years 31 separate New Zealand finance companies crashed and burned, taking about N.Z.$3 billion worth of savings with them. The crash of so many companies and the resulting fallout cost numerous jobs, led to criminal trials for fraudulent activity and caused a loss of trust in banks. Nine years later, not having learnt much from the previous crash New Zealand, like the world at large is at risk of another, possibly bigger, crash.

The causes of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis are well documented. In the United States lax banking regulations led to the failure of Fannie Mae’s, Freddie Mac’s, Lehman Brothers amongst others . Hundreds of billions of dollars was wiped from the value of the U.S. economy when Lehman Brothers collapsed. The bailout plan authorized by U.S. President George W. Bush cost about U.S.$700 billion to enact. Following these collapses President Barak Obama passed legislation called Dodd Frank Act which enabled large scale reform of the banking sector, in terms of transparency, tightening up reporting requirements and protecting whistle blowers.

In New Zealand the following are just some of the financial institutions that failed in 2006-2010 (N.Z.$)¹:

  • Capital Merchant Finance ($190 million)
  • South Canterbury Finance ($1.6 billion)
  • Provincial Finance ($296 million with $273 million recovered)
  • Bridgecorp ($467 million)

¹67 went into liquidation or receivership, or entered moratoria all up between 2006 and 2012

I believe that legislation needs to be passed in two respects to bring accountability to the banking sector, but also institute a better code of practice than the one that exists. Elsewhere I have mentioned the need for better whistle blower protection. This is to ensure that the fate of whistle blowers at the Ministry of Transport who exposed fraudster Joanne Harrison and lost their jobs for doing so, is not repeated.

But perhaps the biggest reforms that I think need to be made are to how individuals enter and exit the financial industry, and the range of tools that can be used in dealing with significant breaches. We have the Financial Markets Authority investigating significant breaches, which is well and fine. But, given the size of some of the aforementioned collapses and the fact that individuals who had leading roles in precipitating said collapses were handed what I think were very light sentences, I think the law needs an overhaul.

For small fraud (less than N.Z.$250,000), claims can be dealt with in the District Court and the High Court deals with larger claims. We saw out of the court trials arising from the collapses of companies like Bridgecorp that in many cases the sentences were too light. The sentences did not appear to take into account ill gotten assets such expensive cars. Nor did they appear to stop the defendants from working in the industry again. The sentences should be proportionate to the size of the losses incurred by the investors. Such a scale could look like this:

  • Category E (dealt with in District Court) up to $250,000 = suspension of trading license + fine (up to $250,000) or jail sentence (up to 2 years)
  • Category D – $250,000 to $10 million = loss of financial trading licence + confiscation of luxury assets or fine (up to $500,000) or jail sentence (up to 5 years)
  • Category C – $10 million to $100 million = loss of financial trading licence + confiscation of luxury assets + fine (up to $1 million) or jail sentence (up to 15 years)
  • Category B – $100 million to $250 million = loss of financial trading licence + plus fine (up to $2 million) + jail (up to 25 years)
  • Category A – $250 million+ = loss of licence + fine (up to $4 million) + jail (up to 40 years) + confiscation of luxury assets + loss of passport

Sound harsh?

Not as harsh as thousands of investors having their retirement plans and anything that they might have been relying on their investments to fund now having nothing to show for their efforts. Not as harsh as hundreds of people working for these forms in good faith finding themselves without a job because of the collapse. Nor as harsh as any community finding that sponsorship of community events and projects have just gone up in smoke.

National not serious about crime

When one thinks of a conservative party, they think of a party that is normally strong on law and order. It will be a party that spends more on the police, normally has a harder line on sentencing and talks about rights of the victims.

It all sounds well and good, if in the case of National, it were actually true. If National were serious about crime, then why is there this long litany of armed hold ups that have all been carried out in Auckland since 01 January 2017?

In January:

In February:

In March:

In April:

In May:

In June

It seems that not a single week goes past without a new armed hold up happening somewhere in Auckland. It might be Mangere or Manukau. It might be somewhere on the North Shore or out west in Waitakere. The target might be a family run dairy. It might be a superette or a bar – the targeting seems indiscriminate.

The victims are understandably fearful for their lives. It is quite a violating thought to know that you, in the course of your every day work life were subject to an attack on your premises by thugs. They might have been looking for cash or cigarettes to sell on the black market. Whatever the case the outcome is the same – another one for the crime stats, a legitimate business violated and the owner/operator scared to death.

So, this is what has happened in Auckland alone since June. It does not include any offences reported in Hamilton, Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch, or anywhere else.

The causes can be debated, though one can fairly conclusively suggest that increased taxes on tobacco products are at least in part to blame. The black market is thriving.

So, just stop and think about this when you decide who to vote for in September. Who do you think will try to address the causes of these offences – National? Labour? New Zealand First? Greens?

And more importantly, WHY?

Harawira completely wrong about executing Chinese drug dealers

The comments by former Maori M.P. and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira that New Zealand should execute methamphetamine dealers from China are completely wrong.

There is no doubt that New Zealand is a nation that has a major drug problem. Methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, cannabis – all of them are serious contributors to crime, declines in important socio-economic indicators, affect peoples ability to get jobs. Cannabis is perhaps the least problematic of these, but all need a comprehensive policy for dealing with all of them. It needs to deal with how we educate people, treat those on it or who are a victim of it, those who have recovered but now have problems finding jobs.

Much of the crime wave of violent offences striking New Zealand at the moment is likely to have to do with drugs – most likely finding ways of funding drug addictions, or being able to source money for paying back drug debts.

However executing Chinese methamphetamine dealers is the wrong way to go about it and sends the wrong message. I would however go one step further and say that Mr Harawira is completely wrong about using the death penalty at all. It is nothing less than state sanctioned murder and there is no justification in my book for it.

Whilst the mechanisms that I am about to mention might already exist in law, how well are they used for their intended purpose? Are they even used? I am talking about:

  • Being permanently denied the right to hold a passport – no country is going to want another nations violent criminals
  • Confiscation of 100% of property gained using drug money as well as and in particular any cash – use the proceeds to help the victims with court/medical/other costs
  • Being subject to police monitoring even after the sentences are finished and the corrections department is obligated to release the prisoner/s in question
  • Non New Zealanders are deported and permanently barred from entering the country

If these instruments exist, how well are they used? There is little point in changing the law if they are a) well used and b) effective.

Part of Mr Harawira’s political repertoire has always been to speak his mind by saying provocative things, and then defend them and there is no doubt in this case, he has achieved that. It is a piece of race baiting in some respects by singling out Chinese dealers, and ignoring home grown ones and their supply chains. Perhaps Mr Harawira means well. It is certainly a departure from what I expected him to say on the issue – I was not expecting him to advocate for a reduction in penalties, but violating human rights statutes that New Zealand has ratified is not acceptable in any shape or form.