Politics

SFO files charges over National donation claims

A rogue National MP's claims of law breaches involving his former party result in criminal charges - but Simon Bridges says he and his team have not been charged.

The Serious Fraud Office is pursuing criminal charges over claims of electoral donation fraud involving the National Party and a wealthy Chinese businessman.

However, National leader Simon Bridges says neither he nor anyone from his party are among those who have been charged in relation to the allegations.

In late 2018, rogue National MP Jami-Lee Ross accused his leader of "unlawful activity" regarding election donations, claiming a $100,000 donation from Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun had been artificially divided at Bridges’ request to avoid disclosure requirements - a claim denied strenuously by National.

Last March, the police announced they had referred the complaint to the SFO, which held "the appropriate mandate to look further into matters raised by the investigation to date".

In a brief statement sent to media on Wednesday afternoon, the SFO said it had filed criminal charges against four people "in relation to donations paid into a National Party electorate bank account".

National leader Simon Bridges with Zhang Yikun, the wealthy Chinese businessman at the centre of donation allegations. Bridges says neither he nor his party have been charged by the SFO. Photo: Supplied.

The defendants were scheduled to appear in Auckland District Court on February 25, with the SFO unable to comment further until any name suppression issues had been addressed.

However, in a separate statement released by the National Party, Bridges said that "as expected", neither he nor his party had been charged following the investigation.

“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,” Bridges said.

The claims had always been "just a vendetta by a disgruntled former MP", he said.

National Party general manager Greg Hamilton said he had always been confident in the way the party received and declared donations, and would not be commenting further.

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