Matt Shand has trawled New Zealand First’s past and come up with something that smells fishy:
Winston Peters had dozed off during the meeting in 2001. He was woken by his advisor who handed him a $5000 cheque from fishing magnate Neil Penwarden and a report alleging corruption in the scampi quota system.
After taking both, he left.
This set the stage for the so-called “Scampi Inquiry”, which started after Peters alleged corruption in the industry during a speech inside the house, as outlined in Penwarden’s report, then failed to deliver any evidence after it began.
“It was suggested it was common these sorts of meetings usually generated a donation,” Penwarden says. “We gave the party $5,000. I don’t know if it made it to the party.”
Handing over money to an MP at these sorts of meetings should not be common practice, it’s con man practice.
If the money made it to the party it should have been recorded and the donor issued with a receipt.
Peters was asked direct questions by Stuff about this incident. His response was to call it “farcical”, belittling the sources contacted individually. Penwarden was able to recall the details. So too was his advisor Ross Meurant who helped broker such meetings.
Meurant, a former National MP and detective was living in two worlds being employed both by Peters’ as an adviser and by Vela Fishing Group Companies at the same time.
Meurant says Peters becomes angry whenever someone challenges his own versions of events or stands up to him
“I’m of the view that Winston believes his own version of events,” Meurant said.
He may well believe his own version that but it doesn’t mean it’s right.
Meurant is lifting the lid on a long-standing tradition of political influence from the fishing industry and NZ First dating back as far as 2001. . .
New Zealand First is under investigation by the SFO.
These allegations must be included in that investigation.
What Shand uncovered smells fishy and concludes:
Penwarden never gave any more money to NZ First or to Peters. He says he had learned his lesson. Likewise, other donors to the NZ First Foundation shared this sentiment. Some even asked for the money back.
“The point is: we learned a lot of Winston Peters and over time standing back and observing his behaviour we were not persuaded in any way about his credibility, honesty and decency and suitability to be involved in politics,” Penwarden says.
The SFO investigation will take time, almost certainly more time than is left before the election.
In the meantime we have a deputy Prime Minister facing serious allegations about his behaviour and character.
Will Jacinda Ardern continue to stand by him when these allegations aren’t just being made against the party and foundation but against the man himself?
She probably doesn’t even believe the fiction she keeps repeating that because it’s about another party she can’t, as PM, do anything about it and she can’t expect voters to buy it either.
It didn’t wash when it was the party, it will be even less credible now it is her deputy about whom these allegations are being made.