Ignorance of the law is not accepted as a defence but Winston Peters is trying the “I know nothing” approach with the privileges committee.
He and his lawyer Brian Henry say Peters hasn’t broken the law about declaring donations because no bills were sent.
The pair appeared before Parliament’s privileges committee over allegations Mr Peters broke Parliament’s rules by failing to declare a $100,000 donation from expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn which was used towards Mr Peters’ legal fees.
He repeatedly denied reports NZ First received a donation from Mr Glenn, who had been lobbying to be made an honorary consul in Monaco…
Mr Henry said Mr Glenn may have “aligned the fact he was paying for the Tauranga electoral petition with the political party whose leader ran it”.
Costs of $40,000 awarded to Mr Clarkson were paid out of Mr Henry’s pocket – something the lawyer said Mr Peters would not have known until this evening.
Mr Henry, who said a description of his relationship with Mr Peters of being blood brothers was apt, never sent bills via a solicitor for legal work for Mr Peters. That meant there was no debt.
“The position is I have not rendered a fee note to the solicitor for the work done and that solicitor has not rendered a bill to Winston. Until my instructing solicitor renders a bill to Winston, there is no debt owed by Winston.”
Parliament’s rules state that MPs must disclose any gift or payment of their debts, with a value of over $500, by another person.
Mr Henry told MPs he had long employed the practice of fund-raising to pay Mr Peters’ debt and not tell him about doing this in order to protect him.
Mr Peters read a letter he wrote to Speaker Margaret Wilson outlining his arguments that there was no debt or gift to declare.
“We have always operated under an agreed system of Mr Henry not disclosing the source of fund-raising and myself not asking. . . there is no debt to be paid or discharged.”
National’s Gerry Brownlee asked Mr Peters about a comment Mr Peters made, saying Mr Glenn had helped pay his bill.
“When you were saying this is a donation to you, you were accepting that there was a donation to you personally?”
“No it was a donation to the legal cost of a petition.”
The hearing is continuing.
Strange how a supposedly intelligent man can’t understand what is so clear to the rest of us: whether or not you see or know about the money, if it’s used to pay your debts it’s a donation to you.