Sir James Wallace, a prominent figure in New Zealand’s arts and film scene, can now be identified as the former rich-lister who has been found guilty of indecently assaulting three men and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The 85-year-old, with an estimated net worth of around $170 million, was accused of assaulting his victims during the early 2000s, 2008, and 2016. In addition, he faced charges of trying to bribe the 2016 complainant into dropping the allegations, a crime he committed twice.

The suppression order that had shielded Sir James Wallace’s identity from public knowledge expired today following a Supreme Court judgment, despite continuous opposition by media, and individuals within New Zealand’s arts and entertainment circles, particularly in Auckland, acknowledging that Wallace’s criminal proceedings have been an open secret for the past few years.


Now that the suppression has lifted, discussions will likely arise concerning the potential removal of Wallace’s knighthood, similar to what occurred with disgraced rich-lister Ron Brierley. His future involvement in the industry and his association with various organisations where he served as a founding patron will also be subject to debate.

Sir James Wallace had been a regular presence on NBR’s annual rich list until recent years when his criminal cases kept him off the list. In 2020, his net worth was estimated at approximately $170 million.

Wallace is widely recognised for establishing the Wallace Art Awards in 1992, which have been regarded as the largest and longest-running awards of their kind in New Zealand, offering prizes worth over $275,000, including artist residencies in the United States, Switzerland, Italy, and Russia. The list of previous winners and finalists reads like a who’s who of the arts world.

Due to his criminal convictions, the Wallace Art Awards have not been operational for the past two years. The trust that oversees the awards announced the cancellation of the 2022 event, citing a need to refresh their strategic plan and explore new ways of celebrating New Zealand artists on a grand scale in the future.

In May 2021, Sir James Wallace was sentenced to two years and four months in prison. However, he was granted bail and allowed to reside in his Auckland mansion while awaiting his unsuccessful appeals, which the Court of Appeal dismissed. He subsequently reported to the Department of Corrections at Mount Eden Prison on February 21 and is currently serving his prison sentence.

All three men Wallace assaulted were lured under the guise of career opportunities to his opulent four-story mansion in Epsom, known as Rannoch, which houses a multimillion-dollar art collection and is surrounded by lush gardens. Throughout the trial, Wallace steadfastly denied the allegations, claiming to be a victim of the MeToo movement. When initially charged in February 2017, he described it as a “completely vicious blackmailing effort.”

The lack of remorse displayed by Wallace has been described as infuriating by one of his victims. At the same time, another expressed an expectation that Wallace would rely on his philanthropic endeavours to try and mitigate the guilty verdict. For one victim, the protracted trial and appeal process proved to be the most traumatic aspect of the entire ordeal.

Before his sentencing, Wallace sent out an email to over 100 individuals and organisations, soliciting letters of support to present to the judge. In the email, he professed his innocence and expressed doubts about his ability to survive in prison, highlighting cases where innocent individuals have been unjustly incarcerated.

Throughout his life, Sir James Wallace has been a significant benefactor of the arts and film in New Zealand. He served as an

executive producer for Taika Waititi’s Oscar-winning film “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”. He began his art collection in the 1960s, now known as the James Wallace Arts Trust Collection, valued at approximately $50 million. Many of the artworks from his collection have been loaned for public exhibitions, including displays at Government House, the Supreme Court, universities, Auckland’s exclusive Northern Club, and his alma mater, King’s College. The Wallace Arts Centre at the Pah Homestead, owned by Auckland Council, also serves as a public art gallery that houses the trust’s collection.

Sir James Wallace is recognised as a founding patron of the New Zealand Opera, the Auckland Theatre Company, the Royal NZ Ballet, and the ASB Waterfront Theatre, which houses the Auckland Theatre Company. His dedication to the arts led to his knighthood in 2011 for services to the industry. Wallace estimates that he and the trust contribute approximately $2 million annually to support various artistic endeavours.

Despite his ongoing criminal proceedings, Wallace has remained involved in the arts industry, continuing to fund projects and attend prestigious events. A trial initially scheduled for September 2017 was delayed as police investigated potential attempts to bribe the complainant.

In April 2018, Wallace faced an additional charge of indecent assault from February 2008, and his business manager, along with entertainer Mika X, was charged with attempting to dissuade the 2016 victim from testifying at trial. The trial finally commenced in March 2019 but was halted after two weeks when a secret recording emerged, leading to a transfer of the case to the High Court. Mika X pleaded guilty to two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice, receiving an 11-month home detention sentence.

While on bail, Mika X and organisations associated with him received over $100,000 in government funding from the Government’s National Arts and Development entity.

Wallace and his manager were found guilty at trial, with the manager receiving a 12-month home detention sentence. During Wallace’s sentencing, Justice Geoffrey Venning criticised the philanthropist for his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions and his lack of empathy towards the victims.