Roger McClay pleads guilty

August 16th, 2010 at 8:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Government Minister Roger McClay has admitted a $25,000 double-dipping rort of cash-strapped charities and taxpayer money.

The 65-year-old pleaded guilty to three representative fraud charges that he abused his ex-MP perk of taxpayer-subsidised flights, then falsely claimed travel costs from two charities he worked for. …

Judge Jan Doogue described the $24,687.10 fraud as “significant” in the Auckland District Court yesterday where she indicated a sentence of community work if he pleaded guilty.

I am glad that Roger has pleaded guilty, which avoids a trial, and also the indication that he will not go to jail.

His actions can only be described as venal and corrupt, and I say this with great sadness about someone whose company I have always enjoyed. Roger has done much for the community as an MP, Minister and Children’s Commissioner – and he will regret that his actions have stained his record of service.

He is still young enough at 65, that he can continue work for the community, after his sentence, to rehabilitate his reputation.

McClay in Court

March 12th, 2010 at 4:17 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Government minister Roger McClay appeared in court today to face charges of obtaining or using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage.

The 56 charges relate to alleged offending involving $26,000 between November 2005 and December 2008. An additional charge was today withdrawn.

At Auckland District Court today, Defence lawyer Guyon Foley did not enter a formal plea but said that his client denied the allegations against him.

The former National Party politician was bailed to reappear in court on April 23.

It will be interesting to see the formal plea. I have no knowledge of the charges beyond what I read in the media. However based on those reports, the case seems to be one that is easily proven or disproven.

Roger McClay charged

March 6th, 2010 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police have charged a former Government minister with abusing his ex-MP perk of taxpayer-subsidised flights.

Roger McClay is to appear in the Auckland District Court next Friday to face 56 charges of obtaining or using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage.

Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty would not confirm the criminal charges, citing sections of the Official Information Act that protect a person’s right to a fair trial and privacy.

Umm. What nonsense is this. If criminal charges have been laid, they are not a private matter. We have an open justice system. If Roger McClay does not have name suppression (which seems obvious) then the charges should be public.

The Herald has the background to the charges. I don’t know at this stage whether the charges are disputed or not – I imagine we will find out on Friday.

Police probe of former MPs expenses

December 5th, 2009 at 2:07 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A former Government minister is being investigated by police for allegedly using his ex-MP perk of taxpayer-funded flights on business trips and then claiming driving mileage from the charity he headed.

Detectives have executed search warrants on the Auckland home of Roger McClay, a National Party MP for 15 years, and seized financial records from Keep New Zealand Beautiful, of which he was the chairman.

Former staff and fellow board members have also been interviewed by police.

Mr McClay, 64, is under investigation for allegedly invoicing the environmental organisation for the cost of driving mileage, but taking a taxpayer-funded flight instead.

As a former MP, Mr McClay is entitled to the 90 per cent subsidy for 12 domestic return flights each year. No charges have been laid and he has denied any wrongdoing.

He said he was disappointed at the length of the police inquiry but declined to comment further.

The inquiry has been on-going for a long time. It seems it was initiated between December 2008 and February 2009, and the search warrants referred to were executed in June 2009 – six months ago.

Not much comment one can make, without knowing if the allegations are true. The fact the case is unresolved after 12 months suggests it is not clear cut. No doubt at some stage the Police will either lay charges or close the file.

Roger McClay

September 20th, 2008 at 9:43 am by David Farrar

No major surprise here – the NZ Herald has revealed that the third trustee of the Spencer Trust is Roger McClay.

I haven’t seen Roger for a couple of years but always got on well with him. Mind you – almost everyone does – he’s a very genial and likeable guy – well suited to a fund-raising role for Winston. Despite my views on Winston, I’ve got on well with many of his staff – I had coffee on Thursday with another former staffer.

The revelation of Roger’s fund-raising role creates a couple of issues for Winston – but fairly minor compared to the others. Pretending you know nothing about the Spencer Trust when one of your staff members runs it, doesn’t hold up well.

The other factor is having taxpayer funded staff members involved in fund-raising. Now I have to declare here that I was a parliamentary staffer for eight years and some of the jobs I ended up doing were interesting to say the least. The line between parliamentary and party is a fine one.

However to the best of my knowledge having a parliamentary staffer actually doing the party fundraising was a line never crossed. There were not many uncrossable lines but that was one of them.

So what really happened

September 18th, 2008 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday on what Winston claims happen. It is fit only as a bedtime story for five year olds, or the Prime Minister.

Today I am going to blog what I think actually happened, and how Winston created this trouble for himself. This is based on the evidence to date, and some guesswork.

He started off only being hypocritical, but in hiding that hypocrisy he eventually told a lie, and then to cover that lie up, he had to tell many many more. Here is my timeline of events:

  1. In August 2005 Peters asked for a meeting with Glenn. They met, and then his staffer Roger McClay asked for a donation to NZ First which was declined. It is fascinating that NZ First tried to solicit money from Labour’s largest donor prior to the 2005 election. One can speculate on why they thought this would be productive and whether this indicated they had already decided to back Labour, but that is not germane.
  2. In late November 2005 a staffer (probably Roger McClay) approached Glenn again for a donation to the petition. That staffer probably had the discussion with Glenn, that Henry claims he had. They do not want to reveal that it is probably Roger McClay as the thought of Winston not knowing the fundraising details of his own staff is even more unlikely than their other stories.
  3. In December 2005 Peters directly solicited a donation for the Tauranga electoral petition, pretty much the way Owen Glenn describes it with a phone call on 5 December, another call after that, and then the 14 December call. All the evidence supports this. The reason Glenn now said yes is because he saw it as helping Labour, and he checked with Mike Williams who said it would not be unhelpful.
  4. Peters obviously took the call from Glenn, and then told Henry to send the bank account details.
  5. The request to Glenn to keep the donation confidential was important. The NZ First brand was built on anti big business donations, and accepting $100,000 for legal expenses would weaken their brand.
  6. If Glenn had said yes to the original request to donate to NZ First, then that would have been paid to the Spencer Trust I am sure. It was vital that the public never know of the funding from big business. Peters and Henry had constructed things very carefully so they could avoid disclosure (arguably) legally. At this stage nothing has been done wrong, save the hypocrisy and maybe the failure to disclose on the Register of Interests (the way they structured it gives them an arguable case though).
  7. Then on 15 February 2008, Owen Glenn revealed he had donated to another political party (which is how he saw it). That got some minor interest in the media as to which other party.
  8. Even worse on 19 February 2008 he revealed he was in line to become Honorary Consul to Monaco, that Helen had already approved it, and he was just waiting for Winston to “get off his arse and do the paperwork”.
  9. At this point Peters would have realised it would be a bad look if the public realised Glenn had donated $100,000 to benefit Peters, and he was under consideration for Consul. Plus it undermines their no big donor brand. So he would be worried. But as long as Glenn kept the confidence it was al okay. Only Peters and Henry (and maybe McClay) knew of the donation. The media could guess but could not prove.
  10. But then disaster struck in the form of Dail Jones on 20 February 2008. He revealed to the media that there had been a large mystery donation to NZ First in December 2007 and that it was closer to $100,000 than $10,000. Owen Glenn also refused to rule out donating to NZ First, saying through his PR firm that people should speak to the party. This created huge media interest.
  11. Now people (including me) started adding 2+2 together to get 5, and thought the December 2007 donation was from Owen Glenn. Peters furiously denied it. Peters was right ironically.
  12. Peters was furious as the allegation was wrong. There were two secret donations – not one. And Dail Jones had accidentally come close to exposing both of them. The allegation that the Nov 2007 donation was from Owen Glenn was wrong, but to prove it wrong would have meant revealing the Spencer Trust. No wonder he was furious at Jones (to be fair to Jones he just told the truth and if you run a secret trust without your Party President in the loop, you run the risk he may blunder into it)
  13. Now again at this stage no lies had been told. It was all hypocritical but Peters denials had been correct.
  14. The next day Helen talks to Owen Glenn and he informs her of the donation. She rings Peters and he denies it to her. Now probably in Peters’ mind he did not lie, only deceive. He would have been careful to use language which ruled out a donation to the party or to him, but not to his legal fees.
  15. The fact he doesn’t contact Glenn to ask what this is about, is incidentially proof he obviously knew. If he did not know, he would have asked. Now again at this stage no major lie, just some deception.
  16. On 24 February he does another half lie denying there was any mystery donation at all. In fact there was – from the Spencer Trust. Peters probably justifies this because the Spencer Trust is not a mystery to him, and he knows the $80,000 was made up of individual Vela cheques of $10,000 into the trust, so in his mind there was no big anonymous donation.
  17. On 28 February 2008 we have the infamous “No” press conference. In hindsight this was a fatal mistake. By going so over the top, he cut off his wriggle room for later. He thought he was on safe ground denying Owen Glenn donated to NZ First, but he also said No to Guyon Espiner saying “Can I just clarify with you. Are you saying you have never received one dollar from Owen Glenn or any associate of Owen Glenn” and that was right on the edge of being a lie. The trouble with having a big No prop, is you can’t suddenly stop using it, so he waved the No sign again. A big mistake.
  18. Now at this stage Peters has not told a fully formed lie – many half lies, but he looks to have got away with his denials as no one asked exactly the right question. Again it is because Peters knew exactly what the donation was about, that he could so carefully deny it.
  19. Then in July 2008 someone leaked to Audrey Young the e-mails between Owen Glenn and Steve Fisher where Glenn says “Steve – are you saying I should deny giving a donation to NZ First?? When I did?”. She published these on 12 July 2008.
  20. Peters responds that Glenn did not donate to NZ First. This is technically true. Glenn referred to NZ First when he should have said Winston’s legal bills. Winston is a great nit picker and puts huge reliance on the difference. At this stage again no outright lie from Peters.
  21. But he again becomes his own worst enemy when on 14 July he attacks the NZ Herald can calls on Tim Murphy and Audrey Young to resign. He offers them a look at the party books. He does this because he knew the donation went into Brian Henry’s account. But he is most unfair in attacking the Herald. He knows that email is from Owen Glenn, and they reported it in good faith. It is not the Herald’s fault that Glenn used loose language around his donation. His attack is over the top and Peters at his worst. It is one thing to deny the accuracy of the e-mail by playing semantic games, but it is another thing to try and take the moral high ground as Peters did.
  22. On the 16th of July he again reassures Clark again there has been no donation to NZ First. Still not lying (but certainly deceiving) as the donation was to his legal fees.
  23. Around this time Peters and Henry would be terrified that Glenn will eventually speak to a journalist and reveal details of his donation.  The Herald also prints a further leaked letter from Glenn to Peters and they must wonder what else is still to emerge. I have little doubt phone records will show them in constant communication that week. So they decide to pre-empt it by announcing it on 18 July 2008.
  24. That day Peters’ mother dies. I do not think so badly of them that they choose to announce it that day because of her death. I think they had already decided on that day (Peters had been overseas and they wanted to do it when he was back in NZ) and decided to carry on, even after she died. That’s still pretty low though. With the NZF conference starting the next day they needed to get it out of the way.
  25. Peters and Henry had a big big choice ahead of them. Do they reveal that Peters knew of the donation? They could argue that he had never denied a donation to his legal fees. Technically he had never lied until then – only deceived. But Peters would know that having waved that no sign around at the press conference and called on the Herald staff to resign and apologise, he would get somewhat crucified if he revealed he was playing at semantics and he did know of a donation – but it was to his legal fees, not him or his party (as he saw it). Ironically in hindsight that would have been the path of less pain.
  26. So they made a fatal mistake. They told a bare faced lie. They both did. On 18 July 2008 they announced that Brian Henry only informed him of this at 5 pm that day. Peters explictly said that up until then he had been “unaware of the source of any of the donations for legal expenses”. That was the start of the end. Up until then they were only half lies, or deceptions (in politics there is a difference).
  27. They had to ten resort to further lies, to back up the big lie. How did Henry get in touch with Owen Glenn?  On 20 July they claimed a tip off from someone whose name Henry could not recall, but was not Peters or Mike Williams. Another deception which turned into a lie. They probably mean McClay, and he probably was involved at first but as the e-mails and phone calls prove Peters was in the loop the whole time. It was not a case of McClay or Peters knowing – they both did.
  28. Incidentially on 21 July the Vela donations came to light, but that is a story for another day.
  29. Peters lied again on 25 July when he said in a written statement “The Glenn contribution went to my barrister Brian Henry. As soon as I learned of it I informed the Prime Minister and alerted the media.” Once you tell one lie, you have to keep lying.
  30. Peters and Henry both lied again to the Privileges Committee on 19 August 2008, saying again he never knew of the donation. Note neither of them gave testimony under oath, so they can not be done for perjury.
  31. Henry also claimed on 19 August “I phoned Owen Glenn and he forwarded $100,000 which was paid to me on account of my fees”. This has been proven false. Glenn phoned Peters.
  32. Owen Glenn’s letter was published on 26 August 2008, along with one from Peters’ respomding to it. Peters again lies repeating that he had no knowledge of any donation.
  33. On 28 August Helen Clark reveals she knew back in February 2008 of the donation, from Owen Glenn.
  34. On 4 September another Glenn letter is published. He details the phone call and e-mail. Peter Williams tables a statement claiming Brian Henry spoke to Owen Glenn on two occassions.
  35. On 9 September Glenn testifies and provides proof of the phone call from him to Peters and the e-mail seven minutes later from Brian Henry.
  36. On 10 September, Peters testifies again. Peters admits to conversation with Glenn but denies money discussed.
  37. On 16 September Henry testified again. He admits that the client in the e-mail was Peters but still insists somehow Peters never knew of the donation. Phone records also prove Peters called Henry straight after the Glenn phone call.

I am pretty confident that this is close to what happened. It explains everything. Peters at first did not lie but he then realised he had gone too far in playing semantic games with the media to reveal he knew of a donation to his lawyer. So on 18 July he told a lie. And that one lie on 18 July led to dozens and dozens more lies as they tried to concoct a story about how Glenn could have donated without Peters knowing. I suspect they also exchanged conversations with McClay for conversations with Henry.

The moral of the story is the same as for Richard Nixon – it is the cover-up that gets you in the end!

The NZ First funding diagram

July 29th, 2008 at 10:27 am by David Farrar

Bomber Bradbury Tim Selwyn at Tumeke has done this nice little slush fund diagram to help people understand how it all works. Good job.

If there is a second edition, one could add on Ross Meurant next to Roger McClay as a collector of money, and also the Vela family as funders.

Clark distancing herself from Peters?

July 29th, 2008 at 8:32 am by David Farrar

The Herald picks up a shift from Clark:

Prime Minister Helen Clark distanced herself from Foreign Minister Winston Peters last night, implying he could be judged to be hypocritical if his New Zealand First Party accepted donations from secret trusts.

And she also offered the bare minimum in terms of expressing confidence in him.

Clever Helen. She must be very worried about the revelations to date.

Asked if she viewed Mr Peters as hypocritical given his long-time railing over big political donations from secret trusts, Helen Clark said it was a political issue that would be judged in the court of public opinion.

“Stands have been taken over a period of time which could be read as being in contradiction to what is emerging in the public arena.

That means yes.

Meanwhile, a former New Zealand First staff member said yesterday that in a discussion about Sir Robert and donations in the 1990s, Mr Peters asked for Sir Robert to be referred to as “X” in case the offices were bugged.

The staff member, who did not want to be named, said Mr Peters also had the office swept for bugs.

Another former staff member, Rex Widerstrom, said he recalled discussions of a $50,000 donation from Sir Robert in 1995 and the Spencer Trust being used “like a code word” for Mr Peters’ litigation fund.

One wonders just how much has gone into the Spencer Trust over the years, and how much has gone into NZ First itself?

A witness to a 2005 discussion between Sir Robert and Mr Peters about the donation, Professor Malcolm Wright of the University of South Australia, said yesterday that Mr Peters had tried to get $50,000. But he had got only half of that after the property magnate caved in out of “mateship”.

Mr Wright, who was working for Sir Robert, said they met Mr Peters and his “offsider” – understood to be former National MP and former Children’s Commissioner Roger McClay – “over a few drinks”.

Mr Wright said Mr Peters was out of the room when the donation was first discussed and came back and “quite aggressively asked who raised it” before having a long discussion that included Mr Peters trying for $50,000.

Professor Wright’s recollection seems excellent.

Roger McClay is going to need to speak up at some stage. The simple question is why was he soliciting money for the Spencer Trust while employed in the parliamentary office of Winston Peters?

The questions for Winston are simpler. I use a famous quote:

What did the president he know and when did he know it?

Jones vs Peters

July 26th, 2008 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

This latest issue is coming down to a credibility test of Peters vs Jones. Now whenever two people are giving contradictory statements that can not be reconciled, I look at motivations. If one of them is lying, then why?

I just cannot see a logical reason for Sir Robert to not be telling the truth. What does he have to gain? Plus his version of events has been backed up by Professor Malcom Wright, his former General Manager, who now lives in Australia. Sir Robert says he had donated up to $250,000 to Winston/NZ First/Spencer Trust/Brian Henry Legal Fund over the years. This doesn’t seem like the actions of someone who would try to destroy Winston’s career by lying about said donations.

The Dominion Post has revealed that Ross Meurant collected cheques from the Vela Family for Winston/NZ First/Spencer Trust/Brian Henry Legal Fund and Sir Robert (plus other sources) have confirmed Roger McClay also collected money for Winston/NZ First/Spencer Trust/Brian Henry Legal Fund.

Now both these men were close friends of Winston’s, but more to the point were employed in his parliamentary office. The rules over what you can do as a parliamentary staffer are open to some interpretation – but there can be no doubt you should not be going around meeting potential donors and picking up cheques off them. Maybe someone will argue they did this in their spare time. But the significance is they worked for Winston personally – not the party. The Party President and Party Deputy Leader both say they have never heard of The Spencer Trust. Are we to believe that staff in Winston’s private office somehow magically found out about it, from someone other than Winston, and on their own initiative decided to go around soliciting money for it?