Green Party MP Keith Locke has called on Zespri CEO Tim Goodacre to stand aside for now and save the company from being caught in fallout from the Australian Wheat Board oil-for-food kickback scandal.
“If, as alleged, Mr Goodacre knew about the illegal payments when he was the trading manager for the Australian Wheat Board it could affect the international reputation of Zespri,” Mr Locke, the Greens’ Trade Spokesperson, says.
The Wheat Board’s internal trading manager, Mark Emons, has told the Cole inquiry in Australia that Mr Goodacre was aware of the payments. The inquiry has been provided with documents purporting to show this.
“Mr Goodacre should do the decent thing and step aside from his CEO role until the Australian inquiry clears up who knew what.
“The Zespri board is not doing the company any favours by dodging political realities and simply proceeding on the basis of Mr Goodacre’s reassurances that there is there is nothing for Zespri to be concerned about.
“Mr Goodacre’s record with Zespri may well be very good, but the company’s International Board Chairperson Craig Greenlees’ first loyalty should be to the interests of kiwifruit growers, which are not served by the company being associated with the Australian scandal.
“Zespri’s board should ask to Mr Goodacre to take leave till the investigation is complete.
“It is important to our whole agricultural export industry that our traders are seen to be acting in an entirely proper manner and would not condone under-the-table payments,” Mr Locke says.