The Serious Fraud Office has commenced an investigation over donations made to the Labour Party in 2017.
The SFO said in a statement this afternoon that it is presently conducting four investigations in relation to electoral funding matters.
A fifth matter that the agency investigated relating to electoral funding is now before the courts.
“We consider that making the current announcement is consistent with our past practice in this area of electoral investigations and in the public interest,” the SFO”s director Julie Read said.
In the interests of transparency and consistency, the SFO announced the commencement of all these investigations, she said.
However, the SFO said it had no further comment to make on the Labour Party investigation.
The department’s ongoing investigations include one into the New Zealand First Foundation and two other separate investigations into Auckland Council and Christchurch City Council mayoral electoral funding.
The fifth relates to donations paid to the National Party, which has led to criminal charges Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross and three other businessmen.
The SFO has not laid charges against the National Party, its staff or members but that distinction might be lost on anyone not into the minutiae of the case against Ross and the three businessmen.
The Serious Fraud Office says it is on track to make a call before this year’s election on whether to lay charges in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party. . .
David Farrar says the charges probably result from an art auction:
If I am correct that this is what the SFO is investigating, then it will come down to whether Labour valued the artworks fairly. That determines who get listed as the donor.
Let’s say a painting went for $25,000. Now if the painting is worth $20,000 normally then the artist is deemed to have made a $20,000 donation and the bidder a $5,000 donation as they paid $25,000 for something worth $20,000.
And only donations over $15,000 get the identity published, so the person who paid $25,000 for it, has their identity hidden.
But what if the painting wasn’t really worth $20,000. Let’s say that is a nominal value but in reality it is only worth $7,000. Then the donor has made an effective donation of $18,000 and should have been disclosed. . .
Having Labour, the NZ First Foundation, two former Labour MPs who are now mayors and donors to the National Party under investigation isn’t ideal. But it’s better than suspected transgressions of Electoral Law and political donations being swept under the carpet.
However, even political tragics might be tempted to say a plague on all their houses and calls are already being made for public funding of political parties.
That is not the answer to the problem of breaking the law.
The answer is good law that people follow with good processes for ensuring they do and strong consequences if they don’t.