March 4, 2019 / 6:14 AM / a year ago

Ex-New Zealand PM to step down from China Construction Bank subsidiary amid controversies

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley announced her retirement from the board of a subsidiary of China Construction Bank on Monday amid a series of controversies.

FILE PHOTO: Former Prime Minister of New Zealand Dame Jenny Shipley at the Boao Forum for Asia Conference in Sydney, Australia, July 30, 2015. Picture taken July 30, 2015. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas/via REUTERS/File Photo

Shipley was ordered last week to pay NZ$6 million (3.08 million pounds) to creditors of failed construction company Mainzeal as part of a NZ$36 million award by the High Court against the company’s directors.

This came shortly after an article attributed to her appeared on the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party that praised Beijing’s economic development at a time of strained ties with New Zealand. Shipley denied writing the article.

A statement released on behalf of China Construction Bank New Zealand said Shipley had informed her fellow directors that she believed it was in the best interests of the company that she retires from the board as of March 31.

Shipley intends to focus on personal and legal matters related to the Mainzeal case and spend more time on her private business and philanthropic interests, the statement said.

Shipley served as a director of the bank from 2007 to 2013.

The court order against Shipley and the controversy around the article in Chinese media sparked a debate about whether Shipley’s role in the board of China Construction Bank New Zealand was tenable.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters criticised Shipley after the article was published saying its timing was “very unwise”.

An intelligence agency decision in November, rejecting participation by Chinese technology giant Huawei in New Zealand’s 5G network, has left politicians and foreign policy analysts worried about relations with China.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s first visit to Beijing has faced scheduling issues and China postponed the New Zealand launch of a major tourism campaign.

New Zealand’s first female prime minister, Shipley led the country from 1997 to 1999 as head of the centre-right National Party.

Shipley also sits on the executive board of the New Zealand China Council.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Nick Macfie

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