Exclusive: Witness in ‘rich lister’ indecent assault case speaks

Jevan Goulter is never far from trouble. But he found trouble like never before when he took money from a wealthy businessman to encourage a sex assault victim to drop a complaint against the man.

The 32-year-old has emerged as the key Crown witness in the rich-lister’s trial and conviction on charges of indecent assault and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Goulter has spent years crafting an image of celebrity and indulgence, flaunting wealth while flirting with outrage. But in an interview with the Herald, he has spoken of how his thoughtless disregard for consequences almost put him in court alongside the rich-lister.

The prospect of being charged and facing trial as a defendant was, he says, unthinkable. So he flipped. He did a deal with the Crown, taking immunity in return for testifying about how he and a friend tried to pay off an indecent assault complainant.

“It’s amazing to see how quickly you can be sliced at your knees and see your whole stable environment be turned upside down out of your control, but as a result of my choices.”

There were three complaints from three men; one in the early 2000s, another in 2008 and then in 2016.

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It was the latest complainant who met Goulter and fellow Crown immunity witness Allison Edmonds at the Gold Coast’s five-star Palazzo Versace hotel in 2017. Goulter talked to the man about dropping his complaint, and the promise of future work if he did. Their efforts earned them $56,000.

Instead of taking the offer, the man called police, leading to the immunity deal and a new star witness who would press the Crown’s case.

In court, the defence attacked his credibility. Even Edmonds, his friend, told the court “he burns everybody”. “He’s been known to develop strategies which he changes on the go, depending on what he wants from the situation.”

Goulter’s narrative has always had a quicksilver quality. As ever, he is at its centre, fast-moving, and always veering towards those with influence and power.

For a runaway teen who didn’t finish school, Goulter’s ability to penetrate those circles and connect people is remarkable.

Among those close in recent years are Ngai Tahu kaumatua Sir Mark Solomon, former National Party cabinet minister Murray McCully and former National Party president Michelle Boag. Dame Tariana Turia has long been a supportive voice.

Goulter was born in Invercargill and adopted out by his mother to the Christchurchfamily that gave him the first name Hamish and family name Goulter. Jevan, the name by which he is known, was passed on by his birth mother, as was – he says – his native American Blackfoot ancestry. He is not, as is commonly assumed, Māori.

Whether at home or as a 14-year-old working for a fast food chain, Goulter describes conflicts in which he was quick to identify his legal rights, and those pressure points that made others uncomfortable. “I was a really nasty kid,” he says.

In the early 2000s, Goulter connected with the Labour Party ostensibly as a member of its youth movement. He skipped school, citing party political work, and made his own path. More often than not, it had him drawn to powerful political circles. At times, it drew him to Wellington.

There was a period which he calls “work experience” that had him inside Parliament and in and out of MPs offices. The political names Goulter rattles off are household names, some with a hand on the levers of power.

In Labour’s political circles, some still talk with horror of a boy – he wasn’t yet 16 – who would walk the corridors of power as if they were his own.

Goulter reckons they could have been. “If I’d stayed there and toed the line – and let’s face it, I couldn’t have – I’d be sitting in the House with Jacinda.”

He didn’t, and talks on one hand of being cast aside and on the other of it being his choice to leave. Years later, he told a magazine how his time with Labour unfolded. The highly-disputed interview left Labour with a lasting dislike for him.

Goulter’s life is adventure followed by disaster. Important milestones include his relationship with Mika X, the “entertainer” in the case, whose name suppression has also been lifted. Through this, he says, he was identified as gay. That’s wrong, he says. Rather, his sexuality follows his passion and isn’t harnessed to gender.

The relationship with the entertainer took him to Australia, homelessness in Sydney, work on cruise ships, and then – having been fired – back to New Zealand. In 2010, he picked Whanganui as home because of outgoing then-mayor Michael Laws and parachuted in as a mayoral candidate.

“I looked at the map and thought, ‘I’m a non-entity. I’m going to have to go somewhere where I’m not competing with other stars in the town.”

Goulter didn’t win the mayoralty. He did learn a lesson in influence and power.

“Everyone makes history in different ways. There’s turning points in things that people will never really know that create a pathway forward.”

In 2011, Goulter went back to Wellington. Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira quit the Māori Party and resigned his seat, forcing a byelection. Goulter sought out Harawira at a public meeting, and then pitched ideas to him online. It led to lunch at SPQR on Ponsonby Road then work on the campaign trail.

“I’m 21. I’ve been shunned by the Labour Party. I’d been shunned by the gay community. Everyone hated me. So what did I have to lose?”

When Harawira won, Goulter followed him to Parliament. By his own account, Goulter’s time in Harawira’s office was tumultuous. He talks of running rings around Parliament’s administrative procedures with an opportunistic vigour – “I found a way to spend money that Parliamentary Service wouldn’t let us spend”.

Goulter speaks of Harawira as an inspiration – they maintain close contact – and working at the heart of power exhilarating. It ended at the 2014 election with the failed mash-up of Harawira’s Mana Party and Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party.

It was an exit Goulter describes as typical. “In my life, I never just leave. It’s a blow up.”

From there, Goulter worked for economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan, who “wanted to walk into the Māori world”. Morgan’s search for understanding saw him fund research into the Treaty of Waitangi and its place in New Zealand, developing an embrasive thesis on Tiriti’s place in New Zealand’s shared future.

Goulter, in contrast, says: “The Treaty is an acceptance of colonisation.” It’s the sort of comment that sparks an outpouring of rage. He has views that are similarly niche and unwelcome about the gay community.

The company Goulter keeps similarly confounds people – how does he reconcile his non-heterosexuality with having Destiny Church’s Brian and Hannah Tamaki among his closest friends? The assumption he’s Māori clashes with his enthusiasm for Hobson’s Choice advocate Dr Don Brash. Answer – he doesn’t.

Since leaving Morgan, Goulter more clearly defined himself as his own man. He has sought out profile, created his own through social media, briefly fancied himself as New Zealand’s version of far-right polemicist Milo Yiannopoulos. Headquarters bar in Auckland’s Viaduct became an antechamber to his Princes Wharf apartment.

Goulter credits Michelle Boag for defining his approach to public relations as “finding solutions for people who have problems”.

And so he did, charging – he says – $600 an hour to solve problems, exercising his extensive contact list and uncanny ability to get people on it talking. The cash enabled indulgence in bling and designer clothing – he wore labels, flew business class, stayed in the best rooms, ate at the best restaurants. His underwear costs $380 a pair.

A clear illustration of Goulter’s connections was his effort to get superstar Chris Brown into New Zealand despite his assault of former partner Rihanna. Goulter drew Turia, Dame June Mariu, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Lady Tureiti Moxon in a public event calling for Brown to be welcomed.

It was “problem solving” that brought Goulter, in 2017, to a table in a five-star Gold Coast hotel with an indecent assault victim.

Goulter claims he didn’t want the $56,000 job, and told the court he set the bill to price himself out of the market.

“They make a point I got paid $56,000. I want people to know, ‘so what’. That is nothing in my life. People might find that a big amount for them. That’s not a motivator for me.”

When he talks of it now, Goulter claims justification in the backlash that followed his magazine interview about Labour. Those claims, entirely denied, led to Goulter being ostracised.

“This is what I was saying to him – ‘do you really want to be the victim’, because that’s hard too. Do you want to be the kid with cooties in the playground at lunch time?”

Goulter searches for other justification, talking of the importance of testifying for the Crown and the impact his evidence had in gaining a conviction. “If this sends a message to all the other people in the scene – and they know who they are – then … I’ve always believed it was for a bigger picture.”

Goulter the contortionist is searching for a way to be the hero of the story. At best, he’s a survivor. Without immunity, he would be cast the villain.

For Goulter, the enormity of what he had done didn’t land until long after the Gold Coast trip.

“We all failed to stop and acknowledge the fact (the businessman) had broken the law, (followed by the impact of) knowing that we had broken the law.

“I’ve never really lived within the rules. We certainly didn’t understand the enormity or the scope (of what had occurred).”

As the court case approached, Goulter’s mental wellbeing threatened to collapse. “I was losing the plot. I think I went down a dark hole that a lot of people don’t get back out of.”

At times, Goulter questioned his judgment and struggled to benchmark his perception of events. It took Hannah Tamaki, and others, to get him to the court so he could take the stand.

“Only out of it now, looking backwards, it’s ‘holy crap’. I’m so embarrassed by it. I’m actually disappointed with myself I put everybody through that.”

Goulter has fought to keep his name secret. In earlier years, quite likely, he wouldn’t have cared. Life, though, changed between 2017 and testifying this month.

In that time, Goulter went from PR to setting up a carbon credit business that, as he tells it, makes serious money. His bling level and designer clothing has increased. “I wear more of it now. It shows I’ve moved from PR to business.”

The Māori Carbon Collective business founded with a board of directors that were household names – Boag, Harawira, McCully, Solomon and others. Boag and McCully have since moved on but those involved in the company now include former Cabinet minister Shane Jones, New Zealand Māori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki and entrepreneurial leader Maru Nihoniho.

The business signs up Māori landowners in tree planting schemes. The Māori Carbon Collective then carries the cost of planting, maintaining and insuring the forest. It takes seven years to cover start-up costs with income from trading carbon credits divided equally.

As the case approached, Goulter had periods where he’s worried the decisions of 2017 will impact on the promise of today. “A year ago, I thought, ‘I need to hide’.” He stepped back from the business.

Now, though, he says “this is my vision and I’m the only one able to drive it”. He’s confident the relationships built in that time will survive his name suppression lapsing.

“There are a lot of people who have strong views on me,” he says. “People can call me what they want.”

And they do. And he doesn’t care. In Goulter’s view, the only way is up. The interview ends and he asks: “Is it going to be a positive story?”

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