SFO – no NZ First fraud

October 10, 2008

The Serious Fraud Office investigation has found that there was no fraud involved in the doantions to New Zealand First from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers.

However, Director Grant Lidell said other laws may have been broken.

On the verge of a trifecta

August 29, 2008

Dene Mackenzie says that Winston Peters is on the verge of an unhappy trifecta:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters last night proved the old adage of be careful what you wish for, when the Serious Fraud Office took him at his word.

After Mr Peters dared the SFO to either lay charges against him or shut up and go away, SFO director Grant Liddell announced he would conduct an investigation into donations made to NZ First.

He would particularly investigate allegations that funds donated to the party by Sir Robert Jones and Vela family interests did not reach their intended destination.

Mr Peters had accused the SFO of “creeping around back doors”, dropping hints and providing media speculation but not finding any evidence of wrongdoing or illegality on his part.

“I am prepared to wait on the court steps for them and, if they don’t turn up, they can go away for ever,” he said.

Well, the SFO did turn up and Mr Peters now faces another major challenge to his political career.

There have already been plenty.

He has been sacked by two previous prime ministers and now, as Minister of Racing, he must know he is facing the trifecta.

Mr Peters will this morning meet Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is under increasing pressure to sack her minister or at least stand him down while the investigation is under way.

Other ministers have been “gone by lunchtime” for lesser offences.

Had any other MPs faced the allegations Peters does he’d have been the first to call for their resignations. He could have stepped down with dignity intact until the privileges committee and SFO investigations are completed. But because he refused to jump he’ll have to be pushed.

He will then be on familiar territory as the martyred outsider. He will still have some supporters who think he’s hard done by, but it’s the SFO not the court of public opinion which will decide his fate.

Will Clark cut the thread?

August 29, 2008

Dene Mackenzie says Winston Peters’ political career hangs by a thread:

A visibly annoyed Miss Clark would not be drawn last night on what the future looked like for Mr Peters, even though she conceded to having previously stood down ministers under investigation.

“I don’t wish to make any further comment until I talk to Mr Peters.

“I haven’t had a discussion with Mr Peters.”

Ideally, she would like to have a face-to-face meeting with Mr Peters this morning and, ideally, she would like the issue completed before the election, Miss Clark said.

Mr Peters is unlikely to stand down voluntarily while the SFO investigation is under way, giving Miss Clark no alternative but to sack him.

Serious Fraud Office director Grant Liddell said there may be innocent and honest explanations for the matters to be investigated. But it’s not a matter of innocence or guilt, it’s simply that it is untenable to have a Minister of Foreign Affairs cling to his post while under investigation.

Miss Clark said a Bill to wind up the SFO would be put on hold until the investigation was completed.

We can be thankful for that because had it not been we’d have been in real banana republic territory.

SFO to investigate Peters

August 28, 2008

He asked the Serious Fraud Office to put up or shut up and go away – and they’re going to do the former.

The Serious Fraud Office has decided to launch a full investigation into Winston Peters, and will use its powers to find out whether donations from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers reached his New Zealand First party as intended.

SFO Director Grant Liddell said he had enough information to suspect the investigation may reveal “serious and complex fraud” the threshold for the statutory powers which can force documents to be produced or people involved to answer questions.

Mr Liddell has been assessing a complaint from Act leader Rodney Hide for the past month.

He said he did not believe there was enough evidence to use the SFO powers on the Owen Glenn donation, because it was clear from both men’s accounts the money was donated to Mr Peters’ legal costs.

And while the allegations concerning the scampi select committee were serious, Mr Liddell said “seriousness of allegation alone is not enough”.

He said it may be that further information was uncovered on these allegations that gave him “reason to suspect” and use the powers.

Keep in mind though, as Matthew Hooton pointed out on The Panel  this afternoon that legislation abolishing the SFO is pending; and that if an election was called the priviliges committee would go too.

But even Helen Clark wouldn’t rush through the legislation then call the election so that both inquiries were aborted, would she?

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