Serious Fraud Office investigating donations to Labour

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating donations made to the Labour Party in 2017

Donations to the Labour Party in 2017 are now under the microscope of the Serious Fraud Office, the corruption watchdog said in a statement.

The SFO declined to release any further details about the investigation. This is the fifth election-related investigation that the SFO has launched in recent years and puts Labour in the company of National and New Zealand First as parties to attract the watchdog's attention.

"We consider that making the current announcement is consistent with our past practice in this area of electoral investigations and in the public interest," SFO director Julie Read said.

In February, the agency announced it had launched an investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation, following investigations by Stuff and RNZ which showed donations used to fund an array of campaign and political expenses, but with the donors' identities not disclosed.

The SFO's investigation into the National Party, following allegations made by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross about an alleged failure to disclose a $100,000 from Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun is now before the courts, with both Ross and Zhang among the four men facing trial.

In a brief statement, Labour Party president Claire Szabo said the party had not been given any information about the specifics of the inquiry, but would fully cooperate with any SFO investigations.

Szabo said the party had in February acknowledged it had received donations from two of Zhang's associates, Hengjia Zheng and Shijia Zheng (also known as Colin Zheng), charged by the SFO in relation to the National donations.

The Labour donations had been included within the party's annual returns at the time they came in.

The party would not be issuing any further statements while the investigation was underway, she said.

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