The Police have announced (as expected) that they are not charging the party secretary of NZ First over their false 2007 donations return. The media will no doubt report this as a clearance for NZ First, but they fail to understand the difference between a law being broken, and whether an individual can be prosecuted for it.
Let there be no doubt that NZ First have broken electoral laws – their 2005 and 2007 returns were false. It is possible their 2006 one was also.
The reason there are no prosecutions is for two reasons:
- The time limit has expired for 2005 and 2006
- Only the party secretary can be found liable under the law, and only if she knowingly broke the law.
So let us be very clear. The lack of prosecutions are not because no law was broken. They are because the time has expired for some of them, and only the party secretary can be held liable for the other.
Winston will claim vindication, but this means as much as his claim that he never campaigned from a helicopter. Thanks to the media, the Privileges Committee and the SFO, we have learnt the following:
- NZ First filed false donation returns in 2005, 2007 and probably 2006
- Winston Peters filed false pecuniary interest returns in 2006 and 2007
- NZ First is now known to get major funding from big business interests, something they had gone to massive lengths to conceal
- NZ First is known to use a secret trust – of the sort they have decried so often
- Winston was found to have lied over not knowing about the Owen Glenn donation
- Winston has personally benefited by $140,000 from private donors
- Winston has been proven to have lied dozens on times on everything from Owen Glenn, to the Spencer Trust, to what the Trust does, to not soliciting money, to not flying on a helicopter
- Documents from his former staffer, Ross Meurant, suggest that NZ First sold policy for cash or at the least allowed corporate donors to greatly influence their policy, and proposed a strategy for NZ First that it becomes a party of narrow sectional corporate interest that will fund it – a strategy that appears to have been implemented and is in total contrast to the public brand they portray
National incidentially never ruled Peters out on the basis he had broken the law. They ruled him out on the basis he could not be trusted, and I doubt any intelligent person could really claim he can be.
On a related note, the Police have not yet said what they are doing about the unauthorised NZ First signs that were referred to them months ago. It is weird they have not managed to announce a single decision on all the other EFA/EA breaches that have been referred to them.