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National returned a $200,000 donation a day after the Newsroom story

National returned a massive donation the day after a story in Newsroom linked the donors to a property that was being investigated for illegally operating as a shelter for migrant workers.

The party’s 2023 donation filings, released Friday, show it returned a $200,000 donation from Buen Holdings on Aug. 23.

That was the day after Newsroom revealed a donor-controlled company was being investigated for operating an overcrowded migrant hostel in east Auckland.

It would have been National’s second largest donation in the election, behind the $500,000 (which may be the largest donation ever made by New Zealand) donated by Warren Lewis, owner of a network of window and door manufacturers.

National has been contacted for comment.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Leasing Services closed its investigation into the $2.97 million, 553-square-metre Shamrock Park home in September 2023 without identifying any breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act.

The directors of the company involved, (MK trustee) Geumsoon Shim (known as Jean) and Lian Seng Buen, also owned and operated companies including Buen Holdings and health products exporter Alpha Laboratories.

Buen has since resigned as a director and, according to Companies House, is no longer a shareholder in the companies, or any company in New Zealand.

Shim said the result of the investigation showed that they had done nothing wrong.

The couple donated the $200,000 in the hope that a national-led government would support small businesses mired in excessive regulations and support exporters to add value to their raw products.

Regarding the return of the donation, “I was the one who donated it, they were the ones who received it. Did they not want to receive it? Well, okay,” Shim said.

Alpha Laboratories is a contract manufacturer of oral dosage supplements and employs 260 people at its Crooks Rd headquarters, opened by former Prime Minister John Key in 2014.

They own the land and infrastructure involved in their extensive business empire, which exports nutraceuticals in hard and soft capsules, pills and liquid form to Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and a small quantity to China which they market under your own brand.

Almost 95 percent of what they produce is shipped abroad.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon visited Alpha Laboratories and posed for a photograph with Buen and Shim a month after he was first named candidate for National’s Botany electorate.

The couple says they didn’t know their tenant was renting beds for $160 a week to 20 to 30 migrant workers from Southeast Asia until they read about it in the media; They had agreed that he could sublet it to Airbnb guests.

They rented the house to him for $1,500 a week and the agreement, which was shown to Newsroom, required him to ensure that any subletting agreement complied with the law.

After Auckland Council served them with an abatement notice in June, they evicted their tenant and everyone else living there.

They believed Tenancy Services was investigating that tenant for similar behavior elsewhere in Auckland, although the organization said it was not investigating any of the tenants.

The couple moved out of the Del Mar Court home in late 2019, just before Covid; Her three children were older and had left home, so they decided to move to a smaller house nearby.

“It was our family home. And we had been there for quite a while, about eight or ten years,” says Shim. “At first I thought we would move back into the house after Covid because I really missed living there, because we had lived there for so long. But we didn’t back down. And then we decided to rent it. “Then this happened.”

Complaints included periods without power and lack of smoke alarms.

They rented it to the most recent tenant in March. At that time, I had new smoke alarms in the hallways. “We did a lot of cleaning and some repairs and renovations to make sure it was to the right standard to let out. We did that. So there were smoke alarms in every hallway.

“We rented it to this person and this person was operating his business there. And then he moved out and soon after the neighbors complained to the city council,” says Shim. “They contacted us about that. “I was not involved in sending workers to do things, to rectify things.”