Emails show Hanover Finance's Mark Hotchin appeared to fund Slater-led campaign against SFO's Adam Feeley; Links brought down Collins; SSC concerned

Emails show Hanover Finance's Mark Hotchin appeared to fund Slater-led campaign against SFO's Adam Feeley; Links brought down Collins; SSC concerned

By Bernard Hickey

With less than three weeks to go until the September 20 election, here's my daily round-up of political news on Sunday August 30, including the publication of emails showing Hanover Finance boss Mark Hotchin appeared to fund an orchestrated attack on Serious Fraud Office director Adam Feeley by Cameron Slater, Cathy Odgers and Carrick Graham.

Fairfax's Sunday Star Times reported from emails obtained directly from the hacker behind 'Dirty Politics' that Hotchin and his PR man Carrick Graham funded the campaign.

"In one email, Odgers said: "Remind him [Hotchin] he pays cam n I to f--- w FMA so he can focus on important things"," the newspaper reported.

Fairfax also suggested Odgers herself may have been involved in providing a copy of the 'smoking gun' email to Prime Minister John Key's office on Friday, which led to the resignation of Justice Minister Judith Collins on Saturday. The email said Slater had spoken to Collins and that she was "gunning for Feeley."

"Knowing Fairfax was investigating the hacked emails, it is believed Odgers (known by the blog name Cactus Kate) went through her own emails and found some that could be seen as implicating Collins. This correspondence then found its way to a Beehive staffer on Friday," it reported.

"I take it you found the smoking gun," Odgers was quoted as saying in an email to Fairfax, shortly before Collins resigned.

Fairfax reported that it did not have the incriminating email and the hacker known as Rawshark said yesterday he did not have it either.  "But Fairfax did have a large tranche of emails that inform an in-depth investigation revealing Hotchin's apparent backing for the smear campaign," it said, publishing excerpts raw on Stuff.

The excerpts also show Graham emailing Mark Hotchin and Kerry Finnigan with plans to campaign in public against the Financial Markets Authority (FMA).

Elsewhere, the New Zealand Herald also reported directly from emails showing the campaign supported by Hotchin also targeted Auckland property developer Tony Gapes and shareholder activist Bruce Sheppard. Hotchin feared Gapes, a former friend of Hotchin, would testify against him, while Hotchin was engaged in a defamation action against Sheppard, the NZ Herald reported.

Gapes told the Herald was shocked to find out about the campaign.

"A lot of it is all falling into place now," Gapes was quoted as saying.

"It was obvious I was someone Hotchin was worried about when he was being investigated by the SFO," said Gapes.

The Herald also reported that Cathy Odgers was no longer a consultant for Hong Kong-based tax planner Jeeves Group, "by mutual consent."

'Some Karma going on here'

Fairfax reported Feeley as saying he had been aware of the campaign against him by Slater and Odgers.

"I questioned their motivation. I knew that what they were saying, most of it, was at best totally wrong and, at worst, total lies," Feeley said.

Feeley saw some justice in the affair being exposed: "Maybe there's some karma going on here."

State Services Commissioner concerned

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie issued a statement on Sunday saying he was concerned about "any activity that undermines, or has the potential to undermine, the trust and confidence in the public service to impartially serve the interests of the government and New Zealanders."

"It is important that Chief Executives and Ministers mutually support each other to carry out their respective roles, in order to work together to serve the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders," Rennie said.

"I am therefore extremely concerned by an allegation that a minister has associated with third parties to discuss influencing my assessment of a public service chief executive. If true, this would be wholly unacceptable," he said.

"Any campaign to undermine my confidence in Adam Feeley's performance was entirely ineffective and unsuccessful. The Commission has reviewed its documentation and sought the recollections of staff responsible for the SFO portfolio at the time in coming to this view. Any campaign to undermine my confidence in Adam Feeley's performance was entirely ineffective and unsuccessful."

Rennie said Collins had raised the issue of Feeley and the consumption of champagne with Rennie, which he said was appropriate.

"He was a strongly performing Chief Executive through his tenure for his work in transforming the SFO and vigorously pursuing criminal conduct in respect of finance company collapses. I would be very happy to consider Mr Feeley's return to the Public Service in the future," he said.

Cunliffe comments

Labour Leader David Cunliffe called for a full Commission of Inquiry into connections between National ministers and Cameron Slater. He said the State Services Commission must order Ministerial Services to stop any computer files being deleted.

“All documents in the Justice Minister’s office need to be immediately secured. Judith Collins’ closest advisors have lost their jobs and should surrender their cell phones and lap tops," Cunliffe said.

“We must clean up politics in New Zealand. As your Prime Minister I won’t stand for dirty politics. We will clean up the system based on any recommendations that come out of the Commission of Inquiry," he said.


"The 17,000 Kiwis who lost their savings in the collapse of Hanover Finance will be shocked at the alleged connection to Mark Hotchin. John Key's Government is rotten to the core and must be changed."

English says inquiry needed

Finance Minister Bill English told TVNZ's Q+A the claim that Hotchin was behind a smear campaign "seemed bizarre," and the comments in Slater's emails had not been proven, which was why the Prime Minister had initiated an inquiry.

He said an Inquiry was needed to protect confidence in New Zealand's financial regulators. He was asked if the revelations had shown the FMA and SFO had been compromised.

"Whatever the campaign might had set out to achieve we have a high level of confidence in the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Markets Authority and I think what's just as important is the market and the investors now have a high level of confidence in those organisations," he said.

"I think confidence in New Zealand's financial markets is good and growing and that’s because it's all been re-regulated.  This is very much a relic of the past, the finance company failures and all the pressures that went with that. It looks awful and that’s why it has to be dealt with," English said.

Labour’s Finance spokesperson David Parker said Labour wanted a full Inquiry chaired by a High Court Judge with judicial independence.

"They need wide ranging powers, and they need to see how far this goes through government.  It now appears that the Hager book was the tip of the iceberg, not everything," Parker said.

“This is absolutely unprecedented in New Zealand.  The Minister of Justice asserted to be undermining one of the arms of justice.  This is very serious.  The Prime Minister's office having been involved in earlier abuses of the Official Information Act.  The Prime Minister misrepresenting advice from the Cabinet Office, that he said cleared Judith Collins when she was tied up in that Oravida business where she had a plain conflict of interest in China.  This goes to the heart of government.  I'm sure this never happened when Bill English was in charge.  This is about ethics not rules,” he said.

Green comment

Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei said the allegations appeared to show National was looking out for its finance company mates rather than everyday New Zealanders.

"The tens of thousands of New Zealanders who lost their savings in the finance company collapses will be shocked at allegations that one of John Key's senior Ministers was "gunning" for the head of the Serious Fraud Office who were holding those companies to account," Turei said.

"Backing winners and giving preferential treatment to individuals, if true, erodes our democracy and business confidence," she said, adding the Greens would hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

(Updated with David Cunliffe's call for a full Commission of Inquiry, comments from Bill English and David Parker)

I'll update this regularly through the day.

See all my previous election diaries here.

See the index for Interest.co.nz's special election policy comparison pages here.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

61 Comments

Ring-a-ring o' roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.

To be fair Bernard, Hotchkin wasn't the only one trying to undermine Feeley...
There was you, me,GBH,Alex,and a cast of thousands here at Int.Co that pillard the poor devil for his ambiguous generosity, not to mention his bandy legs from wearing the hobbles too long.

... I had no idea the guy was such a sensitive milk sop , very touchy Feeley ...

Here's one for you Bernard, how the hell is Parata going to do Collins job when she clearly could not do her own....?
Why did Key promote Parata...? on what performance basis...? I have repeatedly alluded to Key's  wet nursing of Parata , yes there is more there than we care to think.
Why not just give it to Joyce, he does everything else...no really.
Here's a bone for you Bernard me old Saint, that you won't get from Slater.
There is a Minister that has bashed as in laid into a staffer, the staffer now works in a nice embassy job...but.....there just had to be some hush and more than just the Minister sanctioned it.
Do you like HP sauce with that bone Bernard..?

Why don't we call for/expose all the emails, voicemail, phone calls, correspondence, recordings at events etc, between all the political blogs (The Standard, The Daily Blog etc )/Dom Post/TV 1 & 3 .... And ... All the political insiders, leakers, PR, journalists, politicians, spin doctors,  etc ..... .  
If these were all exposed there would be trails all over the place from many political & media sources to many media outlets.  
 
Notice how the mainstream media is also getting sucked into the blogging vortex by feeding off the blog writers and sources also.   
 

Yes so noticed MB, but it's news Jim, not as we know it, but news nonetheless.

Hey , bloody good to have you back , Count ....
 
...  are you in excellent health , or are you alike little Johnny & the Gnats , and the pus is flowing freely out of a myriad of open festering sores ?

On the mend GBH, on the mend, bloody slow though.Great to see you still at the top of your game here at INT.Co, I have missed coming here for all the news that is news.
 I shall ease my way back in here and there, but thank you ,great to see you still here too.
 I kid not about the Minister attacking a staffer and getting away with it.......

On'ya Christov

Yay iconoclast good to see you, ooops I'm being instructed to take her to lunch CUSoon.

Er, there is a difference between contacts and evidence of criminal behaviour in the Prime Minister's Office and Government Ministers.
That said, yes, absolutely blogs should report their sources and media should not pick up stories that are not (even if in the case of Dirty Politics it looks like people in the media were feeding blogs things they couldn't use, then reporting on it when the blog did). I see David Farrar has decided that he doesn't want to be part of what was going on, so will be joining the Online Media Standards Authority and describing the kind of source his information is coming from:
http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/08/some_changes_for_kiwiblog.html
I salute him for doing so, and would suggest this should be the minimum standard of behaviour for blogs taking part in public life, from either the right or the left. But I also think that is a separate, parallel, issue to the evidence of criminal activity in the beehive.

The blogs should be made to, or be shut down if they don't.
They should be held to the same standards other reporters are, and now we know why National made sure that never happened, even though it's common sense, and plenty of people wantd it.
NZ seems to be heading towards the kīnd of thing thats happening with the tea party and Fox news in the US.  We need to shut down BS like that while we still have he chance.

Shutting down blogs is never going to happen.  The Internet is not censored (in most countries).   We are seeing the decline of power of traditional media, to control and sell information.   
In a way, Whale Oil, Dirty Secrets etc is a good thing - it shows everyone how unreliable most publishing and 'news' actually is. 
 

They should be forced into transparancy or shut down, they aren't a law into themselves, just because it's the internet, it doesn't mean they should be allowed to do whatever they like.
Had Slaters emails not been hacked, we would have never known his "opinion" pieces he writes about the alcohol industry and tobacco industries aren't his opinions at all, even though he signs his name to them, but are actually articles written by the industries pushing their causes
The same with Hotchin, we would otherwise never have known that Slater was getting paid to write complete rubbish on people Hotchin wanted to try to discredit because they were a threat to his.
This isn't freedom of speech this outright deception and pretty disgusting.
Especially when information on these websites is actually coming from within government sources, that makes our government look like a banana republic, not much better than Fiji's.
 
 

Are you talking about nz herald & TV3 now?!

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

Fully agree with that first sentence DH!!!!!
This election is turning into the biggest spin fest ever.

dp

A master of understatement: posted 35 times, claims dp.

Did you not have enought to do Colin?
No claims here, went to indicate dp as I saw my comment posted 3 times and the screen went a little manic.
 
If BH or someone from interest reads this can you please do the obvious delete.....when I went to login I did notice the username field changed to a highlighted format......

Updated with David Cunliffe's call for a full Commission of Inquiry:
Labour Leader David Cunliffe called for a full Commission of Inquiry into connections between National ministers and Cameron Slater. He said the State Services Commission must order Ministerial Services to stop any computer files being deleted.
“All documents in the Justice Minister’s office need to be immediately secured. Judith Collins’ closest advisors have lost their jobs and should surrender their cell phones and lap tops," Cunliffe said.
“We must clean up politics in New Zealand. As your Prime Minister I won’t stand for dirty politics. We will clean up the system based on any recommendations that come out of the Commission of Inquiry," he said.

"The 17,000 Kiwis who lost their savings in the collapse of Hanover Finance will be shocked at the alleged connection to Mark Hotchin. John Key's Government is rotten to the core and must be changed."
 
cheers
Bermard

Cunny is back to life , his election campaign is breathing again , thanks to the Crusher administering a dollop of CPR to him ....
 
... Cunnie's Political Resuscitation ...

Oh that really is not "fear". At least seeing it I could cover my eyes but now it's in my brain, it's gonna be a bad milking.

... that would make a great political cartoon in some newspaper , an image of a prone David Cunliffe looking surprised and horrified as a well meaning Judith Collins leans over him and blows an inordinate quantity of air into him ....
 
Picture that in your mind's eye ... should make the milking go quicker ....

Did you just say Judith Collins blows him?  That would certainly be a smear campaign from the left.

FYI updated with English and Parker
 
English says inquiry needed
Finance Minister Bill English told TVNZ's Q+A the claim that Hotchin was behind a smear campaign "seemed bizarre," and the comments in Slater's emails had not been proven, which was why the Prime Minister had initiated an inquiry.
He said an Inquiry was needed to protect confidence in New Zealand's financial regulators. He was asked if the revelations had shown the FMA and SFO had been compromised.
"Whatever the campaign might had set out to achieve we have a high level of confidence in the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Markets Authority and I think what's just as important is the market and the investors now have a high level of confidence in those organisations," he said.
"I think confidence in New Zealand's financial markets is good and growing and that’s because it's all been re-regulated.  This is very much a relic of the past, the finance company failures and all the pressures that went with that. It looks awful and that’s why it has to be dealt with," English said.
Labour’s Finance spokesperson David Parker said Labour wanted a full Inquiry chaired by a High Court Judge with judicial independence.
"They need wide ranging powers, and they need to see how far this goes through government.  It now appears that the Hager book was the tip of the iceberg, not everything," Parker said.
“This is absolutely unprecedented in New Zealand.  The Minister of Justice asserted to be undermining one of the arms of justice.  This is very serious.  The Prime Minister's office having been involved in earlier abuses of the Official Information Act.  The Prime Minister misrepresenting advice from the Cabinet Office, that he said cleared Judith Collins when she was tied up in that Oravida business where she had a plain conflict of interest in China.  This goes to the heart of government.  I'm sure this never happened when Bill English was in charge.  This is about ethics not rules,” he said.

Updated with Green comment:
Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei said the allegations appeared to show National was looking out for its finance company mates rather than everyday New Zealanders.
"The tens of thousands of New Zealanders who lost their savings in the finance company collapses will be shocked at allegations that one of John Key's senior Ministers was "gunning" for the head of the Serious Fraud Office who were holding those companies to account," Turei said.
"Backing winners and giving preferential treatment to individuals, if ture, erodes our democracy and business confidence," she said, adding the Greens would hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Predictable, sadly, with Goldman Sachs running the country since 8 November 2008. In its shame the National Party may now recover some Tory/Conservative principles and evict the Whig Three Amigos.
Ergophobia 

"State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie issued a statement on Sunday saying he was concerned about "any activity that undermines, or has the potential to undermine, the trust and confidence in the public service to impartially serve the interests of the government and New Zealanders.""

Well there's someone who must have been asleep at the wheel for the last 5 years. ..

I remember feeling rather frustrated that the SFO could not succeed in laying charges against Hanover directors at the time, and that there was a general feeling, not inspired by bloggers, that they were not up to dealing with things, it was too complex for them to handle, typical state dept etc.
Would be horrified if Collins had sided with Hotchin etc, knowing a lot of trusting people lost a lot in the serial finance company collapses