NZ First referred to police/Serious Fraud Office

It is unclear who exactly is in the firing line (people-wise), but the the Electoral Commission has referred the party donation arrangements involving the NZ First Foundation to the police, who immediately passed the matter on to the Serious Fraud Office.

Winston Peters has rfesponded saying the party would review it’s donation arrangements.

Electoral Commission: Statement on donations enquiries

The Electoral Commission has made enquiries into issues raised regarding the New Zealand First Party and the New Zealand First Foundation and their compliance with the requirements for donations and loans.

Based on the information available, we have formed the view that the New Zealand First Foundation has received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party. In the Commission’s view, the donations were not properly transmitted to the Party and not disclosed as required by the Electoral Act 1993.

The Commission does not have the investigative powers to form a view about whether this failure to transmit and the non-disclosure means offences have been committed. These matters have therefore been referred to the New Zealand Police, which have the necessary powers to investigate the knowledge and intent of those involved in fundraising, donating, and reporting donations.

The Police immediately handed the matter on to the Serious Fraud Office.

Andrew Geddis (The Spinoff):  The NZ First donations investigation had to happen. And ignorance is no excuse

Let me start by saying that I am not in the least surprised by this development. Not. In. The. Least.

Contrary to Winston Peter’s assertions to the contrary, I know evidence when I see it. And the documentary material that Guyon Espiner shared with me for his RNZ stories here and here revealed something very unusual taking place.

In short, the material appeared to show people with involvement in running the NZ First Party accepting donations intended to help that party, banking them into a “New Zealand First Foundation” account separate from the party proper, then using that money to pay for party costs. But because those donations hadn’t made it into the NZ First Party’s account, the NZ First party secretary hadn’t reported them to the Electoral Commission.

If the donations to the NZ First Foundation are party donations (as the commission thinks), then the Electoral Act required that they be “transmitted” (i.e. handed over) to the NZ First Party’s secretary. This apparently never happened; indeed, the party secretary publicly has sought to disassociate herself from the foundation’s activities.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the secretary is off the hook. Because, if the money paid into the NZ First Foundation’s account are party donations, then they ought to have been disclosed to the Electoral Commission. And as they weren’t, then the party secretary is responsible for that failure unless she can prove she didn’t mean hide the facts and “took all reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure that the information … was accurate.”

RNZ: Donations made to NZ First Foundation referred to police for investigation

When asked if this would have any bearing on the governing relationship between New Zealand First and Labour, Ardern said the matter had only just been referred to the SFO, and she intended to let them do their job.

“I will not pass judgement on whether or not an offence has occurred, or if it has, who may be responsible.”

She said she had been consistent when “another political party” had been under investigation.

“I let them do their job, and nor have I cast judgment on that process.”

NZ First reaction:

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters said the party would review its arrangements for party donations in light of the Electoral Commission’s decision.

“I had already advised the party last week to take this course of action and itself refer the matter to the police, which the party had agreed to do.

“This does not imply any impropriety but is intended to ensure the party, as with all parties, have robust arrangements.

“If the review deems it necessary for New Zealand First and all parties to develop new arrangements to receive donations the party will consult with the Electoral Commission”.

“I am advised that in all its dealings the Foundation sought outside legal advice and does not believe it has breached the Electoral Act.

“At this stage the SFO will consider if an offence has been committed, or otherwise, and it is not appropriate to make any comment on specific detail that prejudges their investigation”.

This is likely to take some time for the SFO to come back with a decision on whether to prosecute.

Probably not coincidentally just prior to this Peters said that they would be referring the leak of information (calling it theft) to the police. It looks more like whistle blowing, especially in light of the referral to the SFO.

Peters made a joke of the referral to the SFO of National party donations, but he is unlikely to be laughing now.

Leave a comment

16 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  10th February 2020

    look’s ‘pretty legal’…to me.

    Reply
  2. David

     /  10th February 2020

    Here we go again, election year and Mr Peters once again having to answer awkward questions about donations from some of the richest people in the country that some have suggested may not have been disclosed properly.
    Bet Owen Glenn is enjoying the re run and Bridges timing has been exquisite…goodbye NZFirst and good riddance to the end of the malevolent impact Peters has had for 30 years on the body politic.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  10th February 2020

      got a blind spot there David…big donors and National go together like peas and..carrots.

      Reply
      • David

         /  11th February 2020

        True as does the union cashola go to Labour the difference being is they both adhere to the rules. We have a foundation set up to accept political donations to a political party with no disclosure or adherence to the law by a person who has screamed corruption at everyone else over decades.
        The Owen Glenn saga, similar thing, was his undoing last time and this will do for him too. I am delighted.

        Reply
  3. Newsroom: Second SFO inquiry into donations a worry for NZ democracy

    In 2008, Peters stood aside from his ministerial portfolios – perhaps jumping before he was pushed by Helen Clark – while the SFO carried out its investigations.

    Such an offer has been neither made nor requested, according to Jacinda Ardern: speaking to media at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference, the Prime Minister insisted it was too early to render any judgment.

    Most pertinently, where there was little doubt about Clark’s ability to lay down the law should the circumstances demand it, Ardern has seemed far less willing – or able – to step in and hold her junior coalition partner to account.

    Of course, Peters would doubtlessly point out that he is entitled to natural justice and the presumption of innocence as the SFO makes its inquiries.

    But he set his own precedent in 2008 with the decision to step aside, and it is understandable that some will ask why he does not do the same again.

    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2020/02/11/1028747/second-sfo-inquiry-into-donations-a-worry-for-nz-democracy

    Ardern is in a difficult position. She risks looking weak in dealing with her ‘junior’ coalition partner (again), but she may feel the risks to the coalition government of appearing to act tough may be greater.

    I think it’s most likely she will leave Peters and NZ First to stew in their own problems and keep as much distance as she can from this. It’s hard to know how damaging that may be to Labour, but Greens are likely to benefit as much as any party.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  11th February 2020

      The group referred to the SFO is not the NZF Party….for obvious reasons Peters kept his distance

      Reply
  4. artcroft

     /  11th February 2020

    “We have an excellent working relationship. I do exactly what he tells me.”

    Reply
  5. david in aus

     /  11th February 2020

    Winston Peters probably has insulated himself from any prosecution. Those who have resigned from NZF likely realised that they were meant to be the ‘fall-guys’.
    The country should consider banning any political donations from companies, trusts, and unions. Only those able to vote, that is individuals, should be able to donate to political parties.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  11th February 2020

      Maybe …but there is an obvious loophole over donations to related entities like party foundations. NZF should include its foundation.
      National has a public one but has others hidden, usually controlled by its regional party chiefs
      As well Mps shouldnt be able to get donations laundered through the party – as national does in a industrial scale- to avoid the low $1500 MP donation disclosure.

      Reply
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  1. NZ First referred to police/Serious Fraud Office — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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