Damage control leak on Sabin raises more questions

In what looks like an attempt at damage control prior to today’s Question Time in Parliament it is claimed that the Police did not indentify Mike Sabin as the subject of an investigation until November 25.

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports in Government ministers knew of probe.

At least two Government ministers were told an unnamed MP was being investigated before last year’s election, but police did not tell Government ministers it was Mike Sabin until November when a media outlet started asking about an investigation into the former MP.

The Herald has learned that before the election Police Minister Anne Tolley and another minister with a related portfolio were told police were looking into an MP.

However, officials did not reveal which MP it was. Current Police Minister Michael Woodhouse was not told it was Mr Sabin until after One News started asking about Mr Sabin on November 25. That was the same day the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, was told and the Prime Minister was told on December 1.

All three ministers have repeatedly refused to say whether they had been briefed or what they had known. Yesterday, Mr Woodhouse refused to confirm whether he was briefed but said he was “absolutely” confident he had handled the issue appropriately.

It is understood police told ministers they withheld the name of the MP because inquiries were still at an early stage and there was concern about the impact on Mr Sabin’s career and reputation if it amounted to nothing. Ministers were eventually told his name under the “no surprises” policy because media had started asking about the case.

This seems to neatly support claims by John Key on timing. But it raises more questions.

If ministers knew something in August why wasn’t this investigated by National?

Journalists and people with strong National connections knew before the end of November. It’s hard to believe no one in Nationals caucus or ikn John key’s office knew any more about it for another three months.

At best it would seem to be wilful ignorance, closing their eyes and ears to something they didn’t want to know about, for political convenience.

This controlled looking leak effectively slams the blame on the Police, but it still looks very suspiciously like trying to prop up some stories that have struggled with their credibility.

It’s prudent to be highly suspicious of leaked stories like this, they are likely to be very carefully constructed single sides to a story.

If this is such a tidy and simple explanation why has it been packaged and released today and simple questions not answered over the last two weeks.

Leave a comment


  1. SteveRemmington

     /  11th February 2015

    A journalists OIA request even at a stretch can hardly be described as a leak Pete.

  2. Mike C

     /  11th February 2015

    @SteveR. Any idea what political party leaning Claire Trevett has ???

  3. SteveRemmington

     /  11th February 2015

    Regardless of her leaning Mike, unless you have undeniable evidence that her article was based on a leak and not the OIA your question falls into tinfoil hat territory.

  4. SteveRemmington

     /  11th February 2015

    Just reread my comment. Wasn’t meant in a demeaning way Mike.

  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  11th February 2015

    “This controlled looking leak effectively slams the blame on the Police.”

    Rubbish. It wasn’t a leak and the Police acted sensibly.

  6. Mike C

     /  11th February 2015

    @SteveR. No offense taken 🙂

    I was not disputing your comment. The intention asking about Trevetts political party persuasion was merely, that if she was a Leftie, then that means one of the opposition journalists has now confirmed what John Key has said about when he learned about the Police investigation of Mike Sabin.

  7. Andrew

     /  11th February 2015

    Sorry Pete, but that is bullshit. Ever hear of the term innocent until proven guilty? National is hardly going to launch into a which hunt for an MP when the police themselves where not even confident enough to name them in case it turned to nothing.

  8. Andrew

     /  11th February 2015


    You need an edit function.

  9. Sure a lot of people claim to have known before the end of November. Doesn’t mean they did, there’s plenty of “embellishers” out there. The story illustrates that perhaps John Key will get to remain in office despite the Sabin affair. More dangerous to him, now is the whole Sky City debacle.

  10. Again.. “I wasn’t told”, “I wasn’t there”, “I didn’t see it” & “nothing to see here !”

    yet the staunch Tories, still think ‘Teflon John’ can do no wrong (along with his cronies)..
    “WAKE UP PEOPLE” this is the real world.. not ‘planet Key’ !!

    • Mike C

       /  11th February 2015

      @Zedd. I like living on Planet Key 🙂

      Because it hands down beats living on Mars with that nut-bar McCarten. LOL.

  11. Kittycatkin

     /  11th February 2015

    But telling people that an unnamed MP was in trouble is pointless-it could have been anyone. It’s worse than pointless, it’s just a waste of time. What were people supposed to do-aske all 119 of the others if it was them ?

    • Havesome morepork

       /  11th February 2015

      I guess under the no surprise policy and their obligation as police to treat everyone as innocent until proven guilty their actions were entirely appropriate and fulfilled both obligations. The problem is that people are chasing shadows that don’t exist.

    • I don’t believe the Police Commissioner would have said an MP was being investigated without indentifying them.

      I don’t believe the Minister of Police would have not found out who it was.

      I don’t believe that the party would have done nothing about it for three months without trying to find out all the details and potential damage.

      I find it very hard to believe it wouldn’t have qujickly gone to the top.

      We know there’s been a court case and we know som sort of domestic violence is involved with a number of reports that it is on the serious end of the scale.

      Wanting to know nothing and doing nothing just beggars belief.

      • Havesome morepork

         /  11th February 2015

        Sorry Pete but….

        The police would not identify because there appeared to be some concern over the veracity of the complaint.

        The police minister can not instruct the police to reveal identities. I’m sure you would be the first to complain about political interference in operational matters.

        Again without a name or a charge should a political party initiate an investigation.

        To go to the top with what Pete? No name, no charge. The PM is going to do what with that information.

        Interestingly you seem to assume the court case was negative towards the defendant. Can you advise what the verdict was from that case.

        Please don’t become a Whaleoil, all mouth and trousers.

        • Whatever happened was seen as serious enough by Sabin to resign from Parliament, just prior to what has now been confirmed as a court appearance.

          It seems that either he didn’t disclose to his party the potentialy severity or his party chose to not know.

          The police will have known the potential severity when they advised the Police Minister in August. That under ‘no surprises he would not have indicated the indentity nor the potential severity doesn’t seem credible to me. If he just said something was up it would put suspicion on all MPs which I can’t see being just left at that by the party.

          • Havesome morepork

             /  11th February 2015

            I think you will find the police didn’t inform anyone because of the severity of the accusations but because the media was making enquires in November. The police didn’t advise anyone in august because there was no evidence to support naming the person. You’re tying yourself in knots over a non existent conspiracy.

            You also seem to be suggesting that Key should have acted before he had the full facts or even a confirmed name. Isn’t that the same thing you were arguing against when a certain United Future member was alleged to have been sharing embargoed documents with a certain journalistic honey trap?

            • At least two Government ministers were told an unnamed MP was being investigated before last year’s election, but police did not tell Government ministers it was Mike Sabin until November when a media outlet started asking about an investigation into the former MP.

              So two Ministers were told but we’re supposed to believe no names were mentioned? The identityof the person would have been a pertinent fact.

              In fact it’s hatd to see it as anything other than an essential fact. Advising ministers that someone was being investigated but not identifying them wouldn have been worse than not advising at all.

              Garrett: “Suffice it to say every political journo in Wellington knew months ago – well prior to the election – that the person being investigated was Sabin, and the nature of the charges likely to be laid. By the time of the election, at least one of them had the bloody charge sheet.”

              And we’re suipposed to believe that no National MP nor the PM knew any facts nor seemingly wanted to know any facts? That would be political negligence.

          • “At best it would seem to be wilful ignorance, closing their eyes and ears to something they didn’t want to know about, for political convenience.”

            Or more likely, they were told there was a police investigation, but Sabin assured them there wasn’t a problem. When he was faced with a court appearance, the game was up. Ockham’s razor…

            • It’s quite likely Sabin woul;d have tried to talk down the problem. Simply taking his word and leaving it at that while journos and Slater (and others) knew that it potentially was a significant problem looks like incompetence or bull.

              And then how do you explain Key still talking Sabin up in late January and early February?

  12. I still don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Sabin resigned from parliament. He doesn’t appear to have done anything wrong in his job as an MP or Chairperson of the Law and Order Committee.

    Clearly, something major has been going on in his private personal life.

    The focus by Labour on this situation to do with Sabin, seems over the top to me.

  13. Pierre

     /  12th February 2015

    It is possible that the police didn’t name Sabin in August. Given the Dirty Politics saga, they may have been conscious that naming him and the suspected crime would have resulted in him being removed from the election. This could have had significant flow on effects on the election result and, if nothing came of the investigation, would leave the police with some awkward explaining to do.

    The other thing that bugs me is that Labour knew late November (after all they told National). So, with 2 weeks before parliament rose, why no questions in parliament, particularly related to his chairing of the committee? Have they waited for the new leader to be bedded in or maybe that they can use parliamentary privilege if they slip up on their questioning? Or was there a blanket suppression (but with parliamentary privilege????).

    Seems to me there is plenty more to this than we could possibly guess. As I suggested previously, I note how careful Winston is with his comments which is very unlike him.


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