The new owners of Zion Wildlife Park are being accused of using "dirty tactics" in their takeover of the wildlife sanctuary.
The park's receivers, Colin McCloy and David Bridgman of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, said earlier this afternoon the park had been sold to Zion Wildlife Kingdom Ltd and that former owner, 'Lion Man' Craig Busch had been "engaged" to help with the running of the park.
Today receivers, police and MAF staff arrived at the park to tell Craig's mother, Patricia Busch, that the park had been sold and she had to leave the property.
Patricia claims her phone was cut off and her daughter, Megan, arrested for trespassing, in action which their lawyer Evgeny Orlov described as "highly improper".
"It also transpired the business had been sold to people associated with Craig Busch, which is something the receivers did not tell the court (at an earlier hearing)," he said.
"There is an injunction on Mr Busch and a hearing in February as to who owns the animals, and they're trying to get rid of that through the back door by trying to stop her (Patricia Busch) from having any control. I find that dirty tactics."
Orlov said he will be filing proceedings against the police over the arrest of Megan Busch and against the receivers for not saying they were selling the park to people associated with Craig.
Zion Wildlife Kingdom Limited's director, Beth McVerry, had used two Bengal Tiger cubs from the park as an attraction at an agricultural trade show she organised in 2006.
The company is registered to an address in Tauranga.
Zion Wildlife Gardens rose to fame through the Lion Man Television series, fronted by Busch, who opened Zion in 2002.
Patricia Busch took over in 2006 after she raised loans to help pay off growing debts and Craig's employment ended in 2008, sparking a long-running legal battle between the pair.
The park went into liquidation in August last year after an application to liquidate was made by Inland Revenue with lawyer Phil Smith claiming that Zion owes more than $100,000 in taxes.
There had been concerns that the 36 rare big cats that lived at the park would have to be put down as a buyer was sought for the park, but these fears have been allayed by the receivers.
"The welfare of the wildlife at Zion has always been a priority for the receivers and we're pleased to announce the completion of the sale and purchase agreement which enables the wildlife to remain at the park," receiver Colin McCloy said.
The receivers said the details of the deal are commercially sensitive and they could not give any more information, other than to say the keys of the park now lie with the new owners.
Staff at the park were told of the sale this morning and have
been stood down on full pay. The new owners will now take control
of employment issues.