Youth charity accused of having links to sex industry

By Ripeka Timutimu

The Department of Internal Affairs has opened an investigation into a youth charity group after accusations of links to the sex industry.

Te Poaka Tipua Charitable Trust in Christchurch is now the focus of an investigation with their founder Veronica Stuart fighting to clear her name.

Set up to help troubled youth, Te Poaka Tipua Charitable Trust is in trouble itself.

“They're investigating us under the grounds that we are not running a youth site but a men's sex site, that's what they’re saying,” says Stuart.

Veronica Stuart has now stepped aside as chairperson of the Trust, and has also been removed from the board.

Stuart says she has been accused of operating a male sex club at the Trust's offices.

“When we first leased this building, it was a men’s private club. It did not sell sex.  We're not a sex site, or a sex club at all. It’s just a men’s private club, it’s not illegal at all.”

The Trust has also been accused of having links to Nikora Nitro, who was convicted of receiving sexual services from a 16-year-old male teen in 2012.

According to Stuart, “When we started off the trust, I didn’t know some certain things and he offered to help with some paperwork.  That is the only input he's had. He’s never had anything to do with here. His address isn’t here.”

Stuart says she's been targeted by local business people, even though she's focusing on helping youth.

“It’s unfortunate to have associates and friends that have coloured pasts and I think we are tainted by association and by homophobic persons.  It’s unfortunate.”

The Department of Internal Affairs will continue with their investigation.  But it's a waiting game to see whether Stuart's work can continue on the streets of Christchurch.