The Herald reports:
A National Party Minister contacted a top ranking police officer after a wealthy businessman with close ties to him was arrested on domestic violence charges.
The Prime Minister’s office is understood to be considering Maurice Williamson’s future as a Minister, following Herald inquiries into the phone call that he made.
His office is understood to have also questioned Mr Williamson over his involvement with Donghua Liu’s criminal case.
Prime Minister John Key will make a statement later this morning.
I’ll update this story as it develops. I’m at the gym 1045 to 1145, so likely next update around midday.
UPDATE: Maurice Williamson has resigned as a Minister
Prime Minister John Key today announced he has accepted the resignation of Maurice Williamson as a Minister.
“I have been made aware that Mr Williamson contacted Police some time ago regarding their investigation of Mr Donghua Liu,” Mr Key says.
“Mr Williamson has assured me that he did not in any way intend to influence the Police investigation.
“However, Mr Williamson’s decision to discuss the investigation with Police was a significant error of judgement.
“The independence of Police investigations is a fundamental part of our country’s legal framework.
“Mr Williamson’s actions have been very unwise as they have the potential to bring that independence into question.
MPs regularly assist constituents in their dealings with Government agencies, including alleged criminal issues.
However it is unwise to discuss a criminal case directly with the Police if you are an MP, let alone a Minister. The better thing to do is have staff members make inquiries, rather than have a Minister directly contact Police. No matter how innocent, or otherwise, the inquiry – a Minister making a phone call/s will at a minimum be seen as potential pressure.
The Herald reports:
Maurice Williamson told a senior police officer that a wealthy businessman facing domestic assault charges was “investing a lot of money in New Zealand” and urged police to be on “solid ground”, according to internal police emails.
The former National Party Minister, who resigned this morning following Herald revelations that he made the phone call, said that he “in no way was he looking to interfere” with the criminal case against Donghua Liu but just wanted to “make sure somebody had reviewed the matter to ensure we were on solid ground as Mr Liu is investing a lot of money in New Zealand”, according to Inspector Gary Davey.
Referring to the amount of money someone is investing in NZ, is not relevant to a Police investigation and should not be referred to
A sad way for Maurice’s ministerial career to end, with 15 years or so as a Minister.
UPDATE2: The PM is speaking to the media about this. He has referred to Section 4.14 of the Cabinet Manual which states:
Following a long-established principle, Ministers do not involve themselves in deciding whether a person should be prosecuted, or on what charge.
The PM has said that a phone call to the Police on a decision to prosecute crosses a clear line. He also said that as a result of the phone call, the Police did an internal review of the case.
National MP Maurice Williamson lobbied a ministerial colleague to give New Zealand citizenship “as fast as possible” to a wealthy businessman – then conducted the ceremony himself the day after citizenship was granted against the recommendation of officials.
The urgent VIP ceremony, believed to have taken place in Mr Williamson’s Parliamentary office, is another close link between the former Minister and millionaire property developer Donghua Liu, who has donated $22,000 to the National Party previously.
I’m sorry, but how could you think that was a good idea after what Shane Jones and Dover Samuels did with Bill Liu. How in God’s name did no warning bells go off. This is like deja vu.