Politics

NZ First referred to police, SFO over donation claims

Police and the Serious Fraud Office will look into the mysterious New Zealand First Foundation after the Electoral Commission states donations should have been disclosed

Police and the Serious Fraud Office will look into claims New Zealand First funnelled donations through a secretive "foundation" to avoid public disclosure.

Last November, Stuff reported an investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation had uncovered financial records showing donations that had been used to fund an array of campaign and political expenses, but with the donors' identities not disclosed. 

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has repeatedly insisted the foundation's structure is entirely lawful.

However, after discussing the foundation with the party, the Electoral Commission has asked police to look at the issue in more detail.

In a statement, the commission said it had "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."

As the commission lacked investigative powers to determine whether or not electoral offences had been committed, it had referred the issue to police for further investigation of the "knowledge and intent of those involved in fundraising, donating and reporting donations".

In a brief statement, a police spokesperson said police had assessed the file sent to it by the Electoral Commission, and would in turn refer the matter to the Serious Fraud Office.

"New Zealand First’s arrangements for collecting donations has been the same as other political parties. The New Zealand First Foundation is built upon the trust deed of the National Party."

News of the referral comes a day after Peters announced he had asked the party's president to lodge a complaint with police over the "massive breach of New Zealand First's party information".

“Ongoing media stories using as their source stolen information are designed to skew an even political playing field," Peters said in a statement on Sunday.

“New Zealand First has so far been sensitive to the circumstances surrounding the theft of party information but can no longer tolerate the mendacious attacks against the party and its supporters."

Responding on Monday to news of the police and SFO referrals, Peters said his party would be reviewing its arrangements for party donations, adding the decision "confirms our prior view that only the police would have the powers to determine the issues involved".

"New Zealand First’s arrangements for collecting donations has been the same as other political parties. The New Zealand First Foundation is built upon the trust deed of the National Party."

Peters claimed he had already advised the party to itself refer the matter to police last week, which it had agreed to do.

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

The party believed it had followed the law "implicitly", while the foundation had sought outside legal advice in all its dealings and did not believe it had breached the Electoral Act.

We value fearless, independent journalism. We hope you do too.

Newsroom has repeatedly broken big, important national news stories and established a platform for quality journalism on issues ranging from climate change, sexual harassment and bullying through to science, foreign affairs, women’s sports and politics.

But we need your support to continue, whether it is great, small, ongoing or a one-off donation. If you believe in high quality journalism being available for all please click to become a Newsroom supporter.

Become a Supporter

Comments

Newsroom does not allow comments directly on this website. We invite all readers who wish to discuss a story or leave a comment to visit us on Twitter or Facebook. We also welcome your news tips and feedback via email: contact@newsroom.co.nz. Thank you.

With thanks to our partners