No wonder Peters and Cullen are both highly upset at the SFO. The Herald speculates that the SFO may have told the Privileges Committee that the Spencer Trust paid the $40,000 court costs that Peters paid Bob Clarkson.
If this is true, it is devastating for Peters and his Labour defenders.
The $40,000 is crucial because there is no doubt it was a debt owed by Winston Peters personally to Bob Clarkson. There is an arguable case about whether money given to Henry is paying off Winston’s debts as Henry claims he never invoices Peters. But there is no doubt over the $40,000.
After Brian Henry testified that he paid the $40,000 to Clarkson, it then became clear that this meant Peters had broken the Register’s rules by not declaring that Henry had paid $40,000 on his behalf. But suddenly two days later Peters and Henry claimed Peters had repaid Henry so there was breach on that issue.
If the Herald is correct, and the Spencer Trust reimbursed Henry for the $40,000, then what does it mean?
- That Peters broke the rules of the Register by not declaring The Spencer Trust in his annual return.
- That Peters and Henry both lied when they claimed Peters had paid Brian Henry back
- That Winston has such control of the Spencer Trust, that he can get it to pay his personal bills
Now in an attempt to divert attention from the evidence, Peters and Cullen are going on about a letter that may have been sent by an anonymous SFO staff member some months ago to Ron Mark, criticising Mark for supporting the SFO being wound up.
It was wrong for that staff member to write such a letter, and they should be given a kick in the behind. However this is not exactly the crime of the century. Thousands of state employees have written letters to MPs on issues affecting their employer – anyone remember thousands of firefighters collecting petitions for a referendum to stop their restructuring? However one does expect a higher level of standards from SFO staff and the Director should kick butt now he knows of the letter.
But for the Attorney-General to refuse to express confidence in the SFO Director, due to the actions of one staff member, is appalling. Make no mistake Cullen is not concerned by the letter – he is aghast the SFO may have told the truth to the Privileges Committee and damaged the Government. Cullen is reacting as an accessory after the fact, not as the Attorney-General.
If the Herald is correct, and the SFO does have information that the Spencer Trust paid (back) the $40,000 debt to Bob Clarkson, it would have been outraegous for them to sit on that information. They are reported as having asked the Auditor-General and the Clerk of the House whether they should inform the Privileges Committee of evidence that contradicts the public version of events by the Foreign Minister. Both agencies presumably said “Of course you should, it would be wrong to allow the Privileges Committee make a decision on false information”.