The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) says it has filed criminal charges against four people over donations paid into a National Party electorate bank account.
In a statement the SFO didn't name the four, who are due to appear in the Auckland District Court on February 25.
The SFO investigation came after former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross accused National leader Simon Bridges of asking him to collect a $100,000 donation from businessman, Yikun Zhang, and then split it up into smaller amounts to hide it. In a statement Bridges says neither he nor the National Party have been charged.
Below is a statement issued by the SFO on Wednesday afternoon.
SFO files charges in National Party donations case
The Serious Fraud Office filed criminal charges today against four people in relation to donations paid into a National Party electorate bank account.
The defendants are scheduled to appear in the Auckland District Court on 25 February.
The SFO will not make any further comment until any name suppression issues have been dealt with.
ABOUT THE SFO
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act.
The SFO is the lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex financial crime, including bribery and corruption.
The presence of an agency dedicated to white collar crime is integral to New Zealand’s reputation for transparency, integrity, fair-mindedness and low levels of corruption.
This work contributes to a productive and prosperous New Zealand and the SFO’s collaborative efforts with international partners also reduce the serious harm that corrupt business practices do to the global economy.
The SFO has two operational teams: the Evaluation and Intelligence team and the Investigations team.
The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.
Part 1 of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director “has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud.”
Part 2 of the SFO Act provides the SFO with more extensive powers where: “…the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed…”
In considering whether a matter involves serious or complex fraud, the Director may, among other things, have regard to:
- the suspected nature and consequences of the fraud and/or;
- the suspected scale of the fraud and/or;
- the legal, factual and evidential complexity of the matter and/or;
- any relevant public interest considerations.
And here's a statement from the National Party.
Statement from National Party and National Party Leader Simon Bridges
As expected neither National Party Leader Simon Bridges, nor the National Party have been charged following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
“I have always maintained I had nothing to do with the donations. As I have always said the allegations against both myself and the Party were baseless and false,” National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“This was always just a vendetta by a disgruntled former MP.”
“I have always been confident in the way the Party receives and declares donations,” General Manager Greg Hamilton says.
“We are happy to put this matter behind us and will not be making any other comment.”