WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Dec. 12) - A public rally is planned in the Cook Islands to protest Prime Minister Robert Woonton’s decision to grant a 12-month visa to Auckland developer Mark Lyon

Lyon, described as a millionaire playboy, was recently convicted in New Zealand on a charge of weapons possession and has earlier arrests in connection with drug abuse. Lyon has been in the Cook Islands in connection with plans to continue construction of a defunct hotel.

The protest is over the payment of NZ$150,000 by Lyon in exchange for the permit, money that allegedly was put into Democratic Party coffers. But Cook Islands Member of Parliament Norman George, Lyon’s attorney, says the money was not put into a Democratic Party account.

"There's an amount of money that has been paid into a trust account because my client indicated he wanted to invest," George said. "He is a property developer with a lot of money and he has already indicated his kind nature. He has already helped with some community projects: donated his money freely. A sum of money has been deposited in my trust account. That money is for him to take out whenever he wishes. That is his money. There is absolutely no suggestion it is going anywhere else."

Meanwhile, Woonton issued a press release saying the money was put into a trust account as a surety of good behavior during his stay. Woonton said Lyon agreed that if he or any member of his family were convicted of any criminal activity in the Cook Islands, the permit would be revoked.

December 12, 2003

Radio New Zealand International:


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