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Do as we say, not as we do 3 December 2003 Edition
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Okay, so far I've explained much of the deal I secured by way of a trip to the USA earlier this year. I've also described the threats made by the IRD. Now some detail about how I tried to gain assistance from the government in resolving things and what transpired when they chose not to lend a hand.

After the IRD threatened bankruptcy I contacted Dr Cullen's office by email - and received the normal polite "thank you…" note in return.

Dr Cullen's only response, as Revenue Minister, was simply to pass the matter on to the Commissioner for IRD, who in turn appeared to pass it back down the chain of command - until the matter was once again in the hands of those IRD staff who had initiated the bankruptcy threat. How does that help?

To be fair however, the department did give me a small stay of execution, presumably to try and come to some form of agreement - but more likely to simply appease their superiors.

After all I thought we'd already reached an accommodation in respect to servicing the remaining debt (and they'd taken my money without complaint), what's more, how could we negotiate when they simply refused to meet with my designated representative?


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Rather than temporarily withdraw their action however, the IRD demanded that I had to turn up to a scheduled bankruptcy hearing at the High Court and ask for the matter to be adjourned - an action which the crown solicitor was instructed not to object to.

Now the interesting thing was that, as I sat in the High Court, they didn't call my name - no, you guessed it - they called Bruce Robert Simpson's name.

Believe it or not, after all those years and all those judges telling them to sort this problem out, they STILL hadn't fixed this error in their records!

Yet again, I pointed this error out to the judge - who thanked me and told the Crown solicitor to ensure the records were corrected - which he promised they would do. (I think promises to High Court judges are something that ought not be make lightly - right?).

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At that stage I had to head off to the UK where I met with a company interested in the X-Jet and which was related to the US corporation that would ultimately sign the deal for the technology. Another reason for the trip was to appear on the very popular TV program Scrapheap Challenge. This programme screened in October in the UK and last month in the USA - my appearance showing once again just how damned ingenious New Zealanders really are and the episode being hailed as the "best ever" by crew and viewers alike.

There I was - flying the NZ flag for millions to see - and one should not underestimate the reach this programme has (having now screened both in the UK and USA). You'd be surprised how much of a positive effect it's had on the perception of NZ's hi-tech prowess in the UK and USA. But of course, since it's not related to The Arts, no brownie points are given by government for such media appearances.

The Scrapheap producers paid my airfares and accommodation - that was great - it meant more money was available to pay off my debt to the IRD.

On my return to NZ I emailed the IRD advising them that a deal on the X-Jet engine was imminent, revenues from other sources such as consulting etc (which would allow the monthly repayments) were now expected to be even stronger than first thought, and reminding them that what few assets I had left would certainly not cover the debt that remained outstanding if they chose to proceed with bankruptcy.

I also advised them that I would shortly be heading off to the USA on a consulting gig to earn more money for debt repayment, and to further the licensing negotiations for the X-Jet.

The email I got in reply to my message simply said : "I advise that a letter has been posted in response to your residential address."

Now I should point out at this stage that not only did the IRD still have my name wrong, they sent that letter to an address I'd never given them as a postal address. More brilliant record-keeping by the IRD and, to this day, I still wonder if I'm the person they think I am.

It was about this time also that reports of my cruise-missile project hit the world's news wires - opening up even more consulting and paid media appearance opportunities. This all boded very well for repaying that debt to the IRD. However, it also brought some rather stinging criticism from the US government.

Shortly after that I flew out out to the USA to sign up the heads of agreement and also act as a technical consultant to another TV production company. The resulting programme will screen next year in the USA to an audience of many millions. More brownie points? Of course not - it's not like I'm in Lord of the Rings or anything - even though this programme did receive an Emmy nomination.

While in the USA, I met with the company seeking to secure rights for my X-Jet technology and found that they had already prepared a heads of agreement document for me to sign. It wasn't exactly what I wanted however, and it was only after many hours of negotiation (mainly involving my demands that a manufacturing/R&D facility be set up here in NZ rather than opting for a straight licensing deal) that, an accord was reached, changes made to their draft document, and signatures applied.

At last I had taken another huge step towards my goal of turning the X-Jet from a "good idea" into commercial reality. My problems were almost over… the taxman would get all his money and more, and I could look forward to putting one of the most stressful periods of my life well behind me.

On my return to NZ I packed up what few possessions I had left and (having sold my house to repay the IRD) headed for a cheap rented cottage (well more like a hovel with wallpaper) far from Auckland.

Signing the heads of agreement didn't actually provide me with any cash - that would start flowing at the end of the year when the final contract was signed. This meant that in the meantime, if I was going to meet my proposed repayment commitments to the IRD and still keep a roof over my head, I had to par overheads to the bone. By moving far from Auckland and being prepared to live in a hovel I was able to reduce my rent to just $110 per week.

It was a sacrifice but I was deadly serious about meeting the commitments given to the IRD and clearing that remaining debt as soon as I could.

I knew that I would have to work my arse off to get the additional data that the US company required as part of the deal I'd just signed within the timeframe specified - but I've never been afraid of hard work and with the end-game clearly in view, motivation would not be a problem.

And then I discovered that, while I'd been away signing up the deal in the USA, the IRD had proceeded with their bankruptcy action against me and, during that absence, had successfully obtained a judgement.

Could this sudden move to bankrupt me be at all related to all the negative comments expressed by US officials when they learned of my activities? Did the government advise the IRD to proceed as a convenient way of killing the (quite legal) cruise missile project?

I don't know.

But back to the bankruptcy - and guess what? On closer inspection, hey hadn't actually bankrupted me at all.

No - guess who they had bankrupted?

That's right - Bruce Robert Simpson.

Yes, even though previously two District Court judges had ordered the correction be made and, just a month or so earlier, a Crown solicitor had promised the High Court judge that the mistake would finally be fixed, they had still failed to do so.

On learning of this judgement, I immediately contacted Jim Anderton's office to point out that the situation was ridiculous, effectively nixing the US deal and all the benefits it offered to bring to NZ. The presence of this judgement actually screwed the deal in two ways: firstly it would mean I would be unable to complete the work required to meet the commitments I'd given in the document just signed, and secondly because the agreement I signed contains a bail-out clause which says that in the event either party is judged to be insolvent then the document becomes null and void.

Surely, now that I had a signed agreement in my hand, Jim's team would look at the bigger picture simply instruct the IRD to request an annulment of the bankruptcy. That way we could all carry on as before so that the taxman would get his money and NZ would get all the benefits this deal represented.

Surely even a total idiot could see that, with just a few memos and a few minutes of the crown solicitor's time, the government would be securing the creation of new high-paying jobs, cementing a new foothold for NZ in a highly lucrative export industry, and ensuring the IRD actually received all the money I owed them - plus the tax on what would be significant earnings going forward.

The alternative (ie: leaving the bankruptcy judgement in place) meant writing off tens of thousands of dollars in the form of the debt I owed, destroying a unique chance for NZ to enter a very high-growth industry, throwing me on the dole, and leaving a would-be trading partner wondering whether all NZ politicians had bricks for brains.

But no, it seems this would be all too much like hard work for the Minister for Economic Development - either that or it was more important to appease other countries and shut down the cruise missile than it was to enjoy the benefits this deal offered. If it were the latter then the outcome is rather ironic - insomuch as the US will now be deprived of valuable technology with civil and military application that it could get from no other source.

Despite the exchange of numerous emails and several phone calls, the only suggestion Jim's boys could make was that I "should work with the official assignee". It appears they weren't even listening when I told them about the insolvency clause in the contract. Remember that so long as the bankruptcy ruling remained, the document committing the US company to this deal was null and void.

So, following the Ministry's advice, I contacted the Official Assignee and tried to argue that I could not possibly be the person referred to in the bankruptcy judgement - since I was not, and never had been, Bruce Robert Simpson. Besides which, three judges had ordered the IRD to make sure they had the name right and the Crown solicitor had promised that this would be done - so surely they must be talking about someone else - right?

Nope - it seems that even though all the legal documentation refers to someone of a different name, such errors can be fixed with the stroke of a pen (after how many years?). The Official Assignee informed me that such corrections had now been made and that he was sending me some documents to fill out and return.

And guess what? Yes, when those documents arrived last week, they were addressed to one "Bruce Robert Simpson"

If it weren't so bloody depressing, it would be hilarious - especially when you consider that this whole sorry tale was triggered by my poor record-keeping -- something that, unlike the IRD's bad record keeping, was remedied long ago. It's a case of "do as we say, not as we do" I guess.

Tomorrow I expose some other unbelievable incompetence and bad advice on the part of another government department that occurred during the timeframe of these events and I ponder whether I should have taken advantage of that mistake. If I weren't patriotic and ethical (attributes that I've since learnt are not highly valued, or even recognised by government) I could have done so and avoided all this misery.

I'll also explain exactly how the SIS became involved in all this and how the government's (in)actions have adversely affected their interests.

But this story is far from over - come back tomorrow and read more.

The Next Instalment: Iran, Missiles and the SIS

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