Hat tip: The Panel at RNZ National
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?
Richard Long sees a striking similarity between Winston Peters and Houdini:
Imperious self-assurance. Charismatic. Thick, curly black hair. An expansive smile. A love of performing.
These were descriptions of Harry Houdini, the great Hungarian-American escape artist who thrilled audiences 100 years ago. Today they sound uncannily like our own great political trapeze artist, NZ First leader Winston Peters.
… As he prepares for today’s parliamentary showdown with Opposition MPs, Mr Peters must feel as hogtied as his famous doppelganger. If he manages to wriggle free he deserves to be listed up there with Harry as one of the great escape artists of all time.
The trouble for Mr Peters is that he is being pinged in at least three directions about quite different sets of donations to his party, and questions about where the money went and why it was not declared. That’s like being handcuffed and straitjacketed inside the water torture cell.
…IT MAY well be that Mr Peters has adequate explanations for how such donations have been used, even if there has been a failure to declare.
He may have felt boxed in last week with the visit of United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and failed to concentrate sufficiently on explaining rather than attacking his critics.
But he will need to do better with the answers this week, although he will be tempted to continue the counter-punching role, in which he revels, rather than giving explanations, which he hates.
Apart from his political opponents, Mr Peters is facing an increasingly exasperated prime minister who watched as the undeclared donations saga last week upstaged what should have been a major political showcase in the visit of Dr Rice.
… She will not want to precipitate an early election, but if she cannot coax suitable explanations from Mr Peters and, if she calculates her image as a strong leader would be enhanced by action, she could strip Mr Peters of his portfolios.
NZ First would be sealing their own death warrant if they responded by bringing down the Government over that.
Mr Peters would, in these circumstances, portray himself as the injured innocent and go on an all-out campaign for the pensioner vote. With Tauranga being a lost cause, he needs a focused campaign to get his party vote over the 5 per cent threshold. Presently it is hovering nearer four.
Harry Houdini, the escape artist, would no doubt approve.
But Peters isn’t supposed to be entertaining us, he’s supposed to be hleping to run the country which puts his antics in a very unfavourable light.
P.S. Long discussed this issue Jim Mora and his guests on The Panel this afternoon.