Revealed: Auckland mayor’s HK$255k perks during affair with Hong Kong-born mistress

Len Brown did not misuse resources to benefit Bevan Chuang, audit report finds as gifts, report finds

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 11:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 December, 2013, 4:37am

The disgraced mayor of New Zealand's biggest city, embroiled in scandal over an affair with a Hong Kong-born woman, has been cleared of misusing council resources to benefit her or giving her preferential treatment.

But Auckland mayor Len Brown did fail to disclose complimentary hotel rooms and upgrades he received and had used his council mobile phone to make more than 1,373 calls and text messages to his mistress Bevan Chuang Ka-yan, an audit report for Auckland Council has revealed.

The affair was revealed in October, days after Brown was elected for a second term. Auditors Ernst & Young were called in to examine whether Brown, 57, had made inappropriate use of public money to benefit his lover, 25 years his junior.

One of the issues investigated was Brown's visit to Hong Kong and Guangzhou in November 2011. The audit found that Chuang was not the member of council staff who accompanied Brown on the visit, the Hong Kong leg of which was paid for by New Zealand's tourism body.

But the married father of three was found to have accepted 60 complimentary hotel rooms and upgrades worth NZ$40,000 (HK$255,300) during his two-year affair.

Brown also used his council mobile phone to make 1,373 calls and texts to Chuang between November 19, 2010 and October 21 this year. He reimbursed only NZ$263, on October 25 last year, for personal use.

But the auditors found that some or all of the calls may have been made in Chuang's capacity as a member of Auckland's Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel.

He was cleared of using his influence to aid Chuang in her appointment to the panel, which she joined before the pair met, or to her job at the city's art gallery.

Brown said he welcomed the findings, adding: "However, I accept that as mayor I am subject to a higher standard of public accountability, and in this context I should not have accepted the free rooms offered to me, and should have disclosed this fact.

"This was an error of judgment and I apologise to the people of Auckland."

An aspiring politician, Chuang, 32, studied at the Chinese International School in North Point until 1996, when she emigrated with family members to New Zealand.

Although she has made New Zealand her home, Chuang keeps close ties with Hong Kong. She has links with many New Zealand-based Chinese community groups, including the New Zealand Chinese Association Auckland.

Chuang states on her LinkedIn page that through her career - in media and business - she has had "significant community involvement with a focus on the celebration and integration of Chinese and other migrant communities within Auckland".

Speaking on a radio interview shortly after the affair became public in October, she said: "I don't need to be someone's toy. In Asian countries, you have a lot of married men who go and find a mistress, but they go and spend heaps of money on them. Kiwi men don't do that. I'm not getting any financial gain out of this either."