SFO files charges against two people in relation to the NZ First Foundation electoral funding case; Winston Peters gears up to take the SFO to court for allegedly abusing its statutory powers

SFO files charges against two people in relation to the NZ First Foundation electoral funding case; Winston Peters gears up to take the SFO to court for allegedly abusing its statutory powers
Winston Peters

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has filed charges of ‘Obtaining by Deception’ against two people in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation electoral funding case.  

While the defendants have interim name suppression, the SFO noted neither is a Minister, sitting MP, candidate in the upcoming election (or a member of their staff), or current member of the New Zealand First party.

The charges were filed on September 23, after the SFO launched its investigation in February. They carry a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment. 

NZ First Leader Winston Peters said the SFO's decision to lay charges this close to an election constituted a “James Comey-level error of judgement”. 

He is directing the party’s lawyers to file proceedings against the SFO, claiming an “abuse of its statutory powers”.

“It has been amply demonstrated that FBI Director Comey’s groundless findings impacted on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign," Peters said.

“It is quite shocking for any who believe in fair elections that the SFO, one day from overseas voting and four days from advance voting beginning, would interpose itself into the General Election in this poorly conceived fashion.

“The Foundation is an entirely separate entity from the New Zealand First Party but that distinction will be lost on some, and deliberately confused by others...

“In my opinion, the SFO has acted unreasonably and without justification both in the way in which the investigation has been conducted and in public announcements the SFO has chosen to make about the investigation in breach of the SFO’s own written policy of not commenting on investigations until the first appearance of any accused facing charges."

NZ First has been polling well below 5% in recent political polls, meaning it wouldn't get back into Parliament unless it won an electorate seat.

The party has been focusing on the Northland seat, however according to a TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll, NZ First MP Shane Jones is only on 15%, behind National's Matt King - the incumbent - on 46%, and Labour's Willow-Jean Prime, on 31%.

According to the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, support for NZ First is only at 1.9%. 

Peters went on to say: “Compounding the SFO’s poor judgement are three other matters. First, the SFO’s still incomplete investigation of foreign money flowing into the National Party. We know they were provided significantly more serious information about the pernicious foreign influence campaign that penetrated the National Party. Yet only a portion of those electoral breaches resulted in charges. Why?

“Second, if voters need to hear from the SFO before the election where are its findings about Labour’s mayoral electoral funding in both Christchurch and Auckland?

“Third, what about the SFO’s investigation into donations made to Labour in 2017?

“How is that fair? It is not.

“Voters will judge for themselves the fairness of the SFO’s actions."

Jami-Lee Ross, Yikun Zhang, Shijia Zheng and Hengjia Zheng are due to go on trial in September 2021 in relation to donations made to the National Party. 

Three separate SFO investigations in relation to donations made to the Labour Party in 2017, Auckland Council mayoral electoral funding, and Christchurch City Council mayoral electoral funding are "ongoing". 

Obtaining by Deception is a Crimes Act offence. The SFO explained:

1) Every one is guilty of obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception who, by any deception and without claim of right,-
(a) obtains ownership or possession of, or control over, any property, or any privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, directly or indirectly; or
(b) in incurring any debt or liability, obtains credit; or
(c) induces or causes any other person to deliver over, execute, make, accept, endorse, destroy, or alter any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage; or
(d) causes loss to any other person.

(1A) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage knowing that, by deception and without claim of right, the document or thing was, or was caused to be, delivered, executed, made, accepted, endorsed, or altered.

(2) In this section, deception means-
(a) a false representation, whether oral, documentary, or by conduct, where the person making the representation intends to deceive any other person and-
(i) knows that it is false in a material particular; or
(ii) is reckless as to whether it is false in a material particular; or
(b) an omission to disclose a material particular, with intent to deceive any person, in circumstances where there is a duty to disclose it; or
(c) a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem used with intent to deceive any person.

The Green Party took the opportunity to repeat its call for electoral donations reform. 

Golriz Ghahraman’s Strengthening Democracy Members bill proposes strengthening transparency and safeguards on donations to parties and candidates, including:

  • A full ban on overseas donations
  • Disclosure requirements for all donations over $1,000 to a candidate or a party (currently the disclosure level is for donations over $15,000)
  • A prohibition on one person donating over $35,000 a year to a party or a candidate

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34 Comments

12
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Of course Winston would say the NZF Party has been exonerated.
He was present at the meeting when the Foundation was set up. He should have been well aware of the situation regarding "donations and loans" to NZF Party - not to be so would suggests that he must be naive.

Your talking about the Man with a Law degree who for how many years didn't realize he was ticking a box that he doesn't live with anyone to get more money.
Only way to remove the corruption in politics is to have 1-2 term limit period. No more career politicians which can be corrupted.

Did the National Party donations splitting case reach convictions also?
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12309443

As the article states the trial is scheduled - convictions? well, I wouldn't want to be in JLRs shoes - or have any association with the whining little weavil

Compared to WP, is JLR the lesser of two weevils?

On a Volumetric basis, definitely not.

And what happened in the Labour Party donations SFO investigation?
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/122119207/serious-fraud-office...

11
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The thing is it sucks! Our MPs, known as law makers, pass legislation in parliament and then immediately blatantly set about themselves to defeat those very same laws. staggered donations under the cap, $1000 auction for a $100 bottle of wine, donation spread from three generations of the same family, on and on cunning and corrupt little schemers. What is the integrity and credibility of our MPs and their parties that they have such scant respect for the law, when we the population, who entrust them with the serious responsibility of making law, are punished if we transgress. As said it sucks!

You may be right in your analysis Fox but the fact is that's how democracy runs now, a bit like Justice - you get what you pay for. Peters is basically sitting there saying the Foundation is a separate entity (which technically it is) but will reflect badly on NZFirst ( which it probably will). Interesting he falls back on the old platitude - "they did it too". Watch for [ deleted. don't do it Ed ] name to appear in this. Peters is throwing a hissy fit because it's released close to a delayed election date. The results were actually due before the old election date and he knows it, so the implicational damage is the same as it would have been. Byebye Winnie, byebye NZF. Bit of a shame though one of NZs most colourful MPs goes out with this as his swansong

Standard Winston response, let's go to court and chew up taxpayers money. At their current polling this is interesting timing.

Averageman
Winston distances NZF from the Foundation as a seperate entity so on that basis can NZF claim to be disaffected politically?
Also interesting that no “current” member of NZF is involved . . . you put distance between the charges and NZF by having the then members resign so they are no longer “current” members as noted by SFO.
Although SFO will have legal costs, there is no way this “politically unrelated entity” can expect taxpayer funding. It would seem that SFO have a good case and their winning record is better than the All Blacks, so more than likely NZF - opps, the Foundation - will be paying SFO costs.
Me? If there is a cost to the taxpayer . . . well if it is holding this wannabe Donald and mates accountable I am happy for my taxes go towards those costs.
From next year the young will be asking who Winston and NZF are . . . great!

10
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I'm really finding it very difficult to marry the logic of Winston's two comments - the Party are totally exonerated and we are challenging this decision.

This is a fraud case, which generally pertain to a person obtaining personal advantage from the dishonesty associated to get the money. So I am wondering how this relates directly to electoral funding? If the money was used for campaigning for the party then there is no pecuniary advantage to the individual. So my reading of this is that the fraud is something chanced upon during the investigation and is a circumstance where the individuals took advantage of the money raising activity for their own benefit and so doesn't reflect upon the party at all. However detail seems a bit light to know for sure.

Remember this was about Electoral Funding fraud, not individual fraud so perhaps that colours things? Unless of course money was funneled from the Foundation for personal gain in which case you'd be right - [ deleted. don't do it Ed. ] or his family members?

Go long Popcorn.....

Haha.. yeah.. and fire blankets.

13
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To quote Winston: “Voters will judge for themselves the fairness of the SFO’s actions."
Yes they will Winston.

And talking to a few friends that have always voted NZF, they won't vote for them again. Reason being they were part of the government that didn't slow down filling the country with more people despite their promises.

Agree. His primary political pitch last time was to get immigration to 10k or less. Results show all he got was something similar to policy dementia.

He is toast.

What about the cardinal rule of any fraud investigation ? Follow or Track the money ?
In this case, how the money came, where it went would be a good way to find out any bad doings, right /
Is there any information on that ?

If somebody was let believe they were contributing to the party, and the money did not get there and went elsewhere it would be fraud.

I listened to Peters 5pm press conference which he scheduled over the top of the SFO announcement. Yukky indeed.
Luckily we have sanitiser in the house so I could wipe down the radio.
Hopefully the journalists who had to attend that poisonous event were able to shower soon afterwards.

I try not to do the personalised comments now but I did above. But Peters behaviour at 5pm deserved such.

Many of the centre right giving Winston grief today will miss him dearly when the Greens have taken his place and we’re being rationed one fart per day to reduce greenhouse emissions and literally everything is hate speech.

I asked my ex NZF voting friends who they would be voting for now. They either didn't yet know, or were giving it to Labour so they could govern without the Greens hanging around their neck. Marama Davison for deputy PM wouldn't thrill me either.

He has been the enabler of much of the current nonsense ; I will not miss him come what may.

NZF are toast anyway watch their support drop to 1%. Winnie needs to learn when to quit. Time to enjoy that retirement mate but you probably left it to late.

its a shame he did not go out on top but let his ego get in the way , instead he will disappear as will NZF i think he thought the billion dollar provincial bribe fund would get him enough votes this time, big mistake putting shane jones in charge of it,
they have some good policies and we need a real centre party but some of his candidates and Mps have been real duds over the years, more than any other party.
it is ironic Winston was against the report into MMP that came out in 2012 that said the threshold should be lowered to 3%
https://elections.nz/assets/2012-report-of-the-Electoral-Commission-on-t...

Why do I get the feeling that if you do something wrong and are in power now in this country, you will be "exonerated", while whistle blowers are thrown in prison... seems like all these investigations into party funding are resulting in nothing. I get the feeling our judicial and police systems are becoming more and more politically tainted by the year.

Golriz wants a ban on overseas donations? Great, lets add a ban on overseas politicians while we're at it

you have to be a nz citizen, BUT i have always found it strange they still allow dual citizens to stand for MP, example russell norman dual nz and aus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel_Norman

I should clarify. It should be citizen by birth, not by grant or descent

Australia has a provision against dual citizens entering Parliament - how has that worked out for them ?

The underlying problem is that the definitions of being a citizen vary widely from country to country ( in some cases if you have any heritage- even if you are not aware of it - you are automatically a citizen ; other countries do not allow one to give their citizenship up , no matter what , etc.etc .)

All you get is politicians attacking their opposites on the basis of having a grandfather born in Cyprus ( yes - it makes you a citizen ).

New Wokeland