Famed New Zealand corporate raider pleads guilty to possessing child pornography

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Renowned former corporate raider Sir Ron Brierley pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in an Australian court on Thursday, his lawyer said.

The 83-year-old New Zealand-born businessman is best known for waging high stakes battles for control over some of Australasia's most recognisable companies, including Air New Zealand, supermarket chain Woolworths and energy company AGL Energy, in his decades-long career.

Brierley pleaded guilty to three charges of possessing child abuse material on Thursday in Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court, Brierley's solicitor Penny Musgrave told Reuters by telephone.

There is disagreement over how much child pornography material he possessed, she said.

Brierley, who was knighted for services to business management in 1988, was arrested at Sydney Airport in Dec. 2019. Police at the time said child pornography was found on his laptop and hard drives during a luggage search.

Famed for his aggressive shareholder activism, Brierley began his corporate career in 1961, starting his own investment company in his native New Zealand.

By the 1980s, his company was the largest on the New Zealand stock exchange by market capitalisation, before he turned his attention on Australia. He remained active in the corporate world until his retirement in 2019.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has asked for the process to strip Brierley of his knighthood to commence, a spokesperson told Reuters on Thursday.

Brierley, who has been bailed to his Sydney home, is scheduled to return to court later this month. The offences carry a maximum prison term of 10 years, Australian media reported.

(Reporting by Colin Packham, Jonathan Barrett and Praveen Menon; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)