Kiwifruit marketer Zespri has successfully applied to the High Court to liquidate the company of a kiwifruit grower who illegally exported its gold kiwifruit cuttings to China. The company, Smiling Face, and its owner, Haoyu Gao, have been in and out of the courts with Zespri since 2018.
According to a Zespri spokesperson in 2020, the High Court found Gao had fraudulently offered to sell Zespri’s kiwifruit varieties and the right to licence them to parties in China. Zespri was about $15m in damages, the spokesperson said.
This decision was upheld by the New Zealand Court of Appeal, and leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was declined. However, the $15m was reduced to $12.1m after an appeal by Gao in 2021.
Zespri lawyer Katherine Evans said Zespri had taken enforcement action against Smiling Face and Gao’s assets in New Zealand and continued to work with the court-appointed liquidators throughout the process.