Multimillion-dollar legal claim by former Zespri importer withdrawn

Some six years after it was filed, a multimillion-dollar legal claim against Zespri Group has been dropped. The claim, brought by Zespri's former Chinese importer Shanghai Neuhof, arose after the kiwifruit marketer and the company were busted for under-declaring customs duties between 2008 and 2010. Both were fined and Shanghai Neuhof's general manager Xiongjie Liu was imprisoned as a result.

The importer's claim was for $25 million in compensation, while Zespri's counterclaim calculated damages totalling $57m. Shanghai Neuhof claimed Zespri was supposed to reimburse it for customs duties, and that it built the kiwifruit marketer a coolstore.

The New Zealand-based nephew of Liu, Jhun Li, confirmed the case had been pulled but did not want to comment. Zespri said the ending of the case was consistent with its view that it had no merit.

The kiwifruit exporter said in a statement the costs associated with the case over the last five to six years have been significant, and it was looking at options to recover them.

A March decision in the case suggested Zespri's legal costs up until then had exceeded $1m. Shanghai Neuhof had until last year been pushing for an early fixture but Zespri had raised many discovery issues causing delays.

Last year, Justice Ed Wylie said the claim had been hanging about for too long and had to go to trial this year, even if the lead witness Liu, was unavailable. The judge had been told that Liu might not be paroled until 2021.


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