Can we trust this trust?

October 27, 2008

Within a very short time of Wintson Peters announcing that the Susan Couch Victims of Crime Trust had been given $80,000 by New Zealand First several blogs had the story behind the story.

Today the story entered the mainstream media and Emily Watt wrote:

A trust set up to receive half the misspent $158,000 that NZ First was ordered to repay was not registered till three months after Winston Peters announced he had donated the money to charity, documents reveal.

The Dominion Post revealed on Saturday that NZ First paid $78,000 to a charity set up in the name of Susan Couch, the sole survivor of the 2001 RSA murders.

Ms Couch has said she has no idea how much money was paid into the trust, and Mr Peters has said she had not yet received any of the money, as it remains in the trust’s bank account.

Mr Peters’ so-called “blood-brother” and lawyer Bryan Henry, his solicitor Dennis Gates, and Mr Henry’s colleague Brian Coburn have full control over how the money is spent, including the ability to pay themselves all reasonable expenses.

Mr Henry is also acting for Ms Couch, winning a landmark Supreme Court ruling allowing her to sue the Corrections Department. He has said he is working for free.

So: the trust wasn’t established until three months after Peters said the party had made the donations; Peters’ lawyer who is also Miss Couch’s lawyer is a trustee and Miss Couch hasn’t received a cent from the trust.

Can we trust this trust and can we take Peters’ word about where the rest of the money went?

Even if we can it doesn’t absolve New Zealand First from its responsibility to repay the money it owes the tax payer.

Helping others with others’ money

October 25, 2008

Using other people’s misfortune for political advantage is despicable, using other other people’s money to do it is even worse.

Winston Peters refused to accept that he and his party did anything wrong when they used public money to pay for their 2005 election campaign but tried to get a political advantage by donating to charity the money they owed to the tax payer.

That back fired when Starship Hospital handed the cheque back. When other charities were reluctant to accept the money Peters announced they’d given it away but wouldn’t name the beneficiaries.

He’s now said  that $78,000 went to a trust set up by his lawyer, Brian Henry, to help victims of violent crime and “thousands” to the family of a disabled child.

Mr Peters confirmed yesterday that $78,000 was given to The Susan Couch and Crime Victims Charitable Trust, named for the survivor of RSA triple-killer William Bell.

Henry is also the lawyer for Susan Couch, but he is working for her for free so there is no suggestion he has anything to gain from this donation.

That’s beside the point anyway because the trust, its trustees, beneficiaries and the people associated with them are irrelevant. So too is the identity of any other recipients of the party’s money. I am not questioning their need for help nor the right of any individual or group to help them.

What matters is that Peters has used donations to worthy causes for political ends and NZ First still owes the tax payer $158,000.

They don’t appear to be spending much on their campaign, probably because they don’t have much to spend, but every cent they are spending is a cent they owe us.

Foot note: The Dominion reports all other parties have repaid the money they owed:

Auditor-General Kevin Brady’s investigation into how parties used taxpayer funds for expenses before the 2005 election found that a total of $1.2 million was misspent – mostly on election advertising. Labour was the biggest offender, with $824,524. The NZ First figure was $157,934, National $11,912, Greens $87,192, UnitedFuture $71,867, ACT $20,114 and the Maori Party $54. All, apart from NZ First, have repaid the money.

Peters names one charity

October 24, 2008

Winston Peters has named a charity New Zealand First donated to in the mistaken belief this would absolve it of the responsibility of repaying the $158,000 of tax payers’ money it used to fund its last election campaign.

TV One News said he’d told them the party gave $78,000 to the trust set up for Susan Couch, the only survivor of the 2001 RSA murders.

The Herald reported in 2006 that she was virtually destitute, unable to work five years after the attack and was being helped by the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

Who or what the party gives its money to is between it and those who donate to it, but no matter how worthy the recipient of its donations NZ First still owes the public purse $158,000.

Until it repays that money every cent it spends on its campaign is money it owes us and tells us getting re-elected is more important to it than doing the right thing.

Update: TV1 doesn’t have this story on line yet, but I did a search for her name on the site and came across an interview with her lawyer  who happens to be Brian Henry who is also Peters’ lawyer.

Update 2: TVNZ now has the story on line here.

How many stories are there ?

September 18, 2008


It’s a long story

September 16, 2008


Brian Henry admitted to the privileges committee  this morning that he and Winston Peters had a poor recollection of events and:

. . . their earlier story did not now seem correct.

He acknowledged that Mr Peters must be the client referred to but said that did not conclusively show Mr Peters’ solicited a donation towards his legal fees.

Not conclusively? What about beyond reasonable doubt?

As Keeping Stock  puts it this story get more bizarre by the day; and Matthew Hooton suggests there might be another chapter involving the IRD.


Enough’s enough

September 12, 2008

The Dominion Post has had enough:

Prime Minister Helen Clark’s course of action is now clear. Mr Henry has been invited to reappear before the privileges committee on Tuesday. When he does, he should bring with him two pieces of evidence. The first is telephone records showing when he first called Mr Glenn to ask him to contribute toward Mr Peters’ legal costs, records which, if they exist, will disprove Mr Glenn’s assertion that he has never spoken to Mr Peters’ lawyer.

The second is the name of the “client” who advised him to approach Mr Glenn on Mr Peters’ behalf.

If Mr Henry is unable, or unwilling, to provide either, the prime minister should sack Mr Peters from her ministry.

For too long, he has trifled with the truth and danced on the heads of legal pins. By doing so, he would like his supporters to believe he has simply been refusing to dance to the tune of petty bureaucrats and the news media.

But what he has, in fact, been doing is showing contempt for Parliament, the law and the public. Remember, it was an audience member who asked Mr Peters at a Grey Power meeting in July to explain why NZ First had not declared money received from the Spencer Trust, a shadowy legal entity administered by his brother Wayne.

Mr Peters replied that: “Everything that [NZ First] was required to do within the law has been done,” has now been shown, by the party’s own admission that it broke electoral law, to be false.

Miss Clark should call the election.

Not only will it give her the political benefit of diverting attention from Mr Peters’ evasions, half-truths and falsehoods, it will give the public the opportunity to pass judgment on his shenanigans.

“Contempt for Parliament, the law, and the public …” not to mention his colleagues, his party, its members and the poor deluded souls who’ve believed the populist message he’s spent his political career spreading.

2nd Glenn letter increases heat

September 4, 2008

A second letter from Owen Glenn to the privileges committee contradicts WInston Peters again.

The letter said: “There is absolutely no doubt that the request came to me from Mr Peters. I would not have made the donation on any other basis through any intermediary. I did not do so.”

It was also revealed today that Mr Glenn will appear in person at the committee on Tuesday.

Implicit in Mr Glenn’s letter is a claim that Mr Peters telephoned Mr Glenn on December 14, 2005 and that Mr Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry followed up the call later that day with an email.

Mr Glenn said in the letter that he gave the authority for the payment instructions to be made on December 20, 2005 to be made to the account of Mr Henry.

“Mr Henry supplied the ASB Bank account details in an email from him addressed to me on Wednesday 14 December 2005,” Mr Glenn’s letter says.

That email from Mr Henry refers to an earlier telephone conversation between me and person Mr Henry refers to as ‘my client’ that same day.”

Mr Henry has given testimony to the privileges committee that he approached Mr Glenn to ask for a donation after being an advised to do so by a client of his, but he has emphatically stated that that client was not Mr Peters.

The committee prevented Mr Peters’ lawyer making a full statement at a hearing today.

Following tense exchanges, lawyer Peter Williams made a truncated presentation to the committee in which he said the decision it makes on New First’s donations should not be made on party lines.

He did not address the specifics of the donation from Mr Glenn to NZ First.

The committee had ruled that the broad statement Mr Williams was intending to make went outside its standing orders.

Mr Peters was present at the hearing but did not make any presentations of his own.

The committee is investigating whether Mr Peters broke Parliament’s rules by failing to declare a $100,000 donation from Mr Glenn towards his legal costs.

In a letter to the committee, made public last week, Mr Glenn said Mr Peters sought the $100,000 donation from him in 2005 and then thanked him for it at the Karaka yearling sales in early 2006.

Mr Peters has said it was his lawyer Brian Henry who approached Mr Glenn.

Parliament’s rules only allow legal counsel to talk about issues of process, but Mr Williams repeatedly argued that contributions to MPs’ legal petitions have never been considered a pecuniary matter.

He was repeatedly warned by committee chair Simon Power, but ignored those warnings and continued to outline Mr Peters’ argument.

After 25 minutes Mr Williams concluded his argument and the committee went into closed session.

Mr Peters has said he had no knowledge of the donation until Mr Henry advised him of it on July 18 this year.

Radio New Zealand’s political editor Brent Edwards is discussing the issue with Kathryn Ryan now. It is on line here.

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