Winston remains in charge

January 22nd, 2009 at 1:10 pm by David Farrar

NZ First have confirmed that Winston Peters is going to remain Leader for now, but not necessarily until the 2011 election.

This is not unexpected, but what is a pleasant surpise is some backbone from Peter Brown:

Deputy leader Peter Brown said several supporters had told him they thought Mr Peters should resign, but he believed the party would suffer if he did.

He believed NZ First could successfully return to Parliament in 2011, but it would take some major changes.

The party’s funding and Mr Peters’ actions would both need to be more transparent.

“I personally think he’s a great guy and he’s got a lot of talent, but we can’t even give the perception that we are a one-man band.

“In reality we weren’t, but he would go off on a tangent and we wouldn’t know a thing about it, ie the Spencer Trust, and that’s not acceptable.”

Well done Peter Brown. No it is not acceptable for the money intended for the party to be deposited into private trusts run by the Leader’s staff and brother, without the Board even knowing the existence of such trust.

Apart from the difficulty of being out of Parliament, NZ First do have significant challenges. Winston will be 66 at the next election and Deputy Leader Peter Brown will be 72.

Police not charging over false electoral returns

November 4th, 2008 at 5:39 pm by David Farrar

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:

  1. The time limit has expired for 2005 and 2006
  2. 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:

  1. NZ First filed false donation returns in 2005, 2007 and probably 2006
  2. Winston Peters filed false pecuniary interest returns in 2006 and 2007
  3. NZ First is now known to get major funding from big business interests, something they had gone to massive lengths to conceal
  4. NZ First is known to use a secret trust – of the sort they have decried so often
  5. Winston was found to have lied over not knowing about the Owen Glenn donation
  6. Winston has personally benefited by $140,000 from private donors
  7. 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
  8. 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.

Electoral Commission on NZ First

October 24th, 2008 at 7:44 am by David Farrar

The Electoral Commission has done three things in response to NZ First’s 2007 donations return:

  1. It has found the party secretary did not break the law with the 2007 donations return, but is not releasing the full decision as it may compromise the police investigation. They EC point out carefully “The determination is in respect of the actions of the Party Secretary for New Zealand First only, as considered under Part 6 of the Electoral Act.” This suggests that others are under investigation by the Police.
  2. It has published amended returns for 2007 showing $80,000 of donations from the Spencer Trust. At this stage amended returns for 2005 and 2006 have not been published or possibly even received.
  3. It has published a letter from the NZ First Auditor, Nick Kosoof.

No (1) is not a big surprise. The party administrators tended to be kept ignorant of the Spencer Trust. Both the Party President and the Party Deputy Leader have said they were unaware the Spencer Trust even existed.  So I guess the Party Secretary was also unaware of it.

The letter from Kosoof is interesting. He says:

We were advised that the sums totally $80,000 paid to the Spencer Trust were paid not for the credit of that trust but for the credit of the NZ First Party, and were received by the Spencer Trust as an agent for the NZ First Party. As each of the component parts of that sum were from different entities and each was $10,000 or under, they did not require to be returned under the Electoral Act 1993.

This raises many questions:

  1. Who advised Kosoof of this?
  2. Did he have access to the Spencer Trust accounts to verify that each component part was under $10,000?
  3. Did he seek any legal advice on the situation or just take the word of the organisation he audits?

I wonder if NZ First wll file amended returns for 2005 and 2006? I suspect they may choose not to, even though they have acknowledged the 2005 return was false. The EC doesn’t actually have the power to force them to do this.

The SFO outcome

October 11th, 2008 at 10:34 am by David Farrar

I am totally unsurprised by the outcome of the Serious Fraud Office inquiries into the Spencer Trust. And the outcome is in no way a clearance or an exoneration. What it says is laws have been broken, but not fraud laws.

NZ First’s failure to obey the electoral laws of New Zealand is what made the investigation occur. Because the public facts were that Bob Jones had stated he had made a $25,000 donation intended for NZ First, through the Spencer Trust, and the NZ First Party had filed a donations return saying it had not received any donations in 2005 of over $10,000. To quote the SFO:

There were two competing explanations for how this could be.

  1. The Spencer Trust never passed the money onto NZ First, which would be possibly fraudalant
  2. The Spencer Trust did pass the money onto NZ First, and NZ First filed a false electoral donations return

No 2 was always far more likely. And thanks to the SFO investigation we now know this is true. In fact we know that NZ First has filed a series of false returns, as has Winston Peters personally, and Peters has lied on multiple occassions about these returns, including giving false information to the Privileges Committee.

This is no case of an accidential omission on a return, due to Mrs Muggins the branch secretary. This was a strategy signed off by the Leader. Let us look at the multiple false returns and statements:

  1. A false donations return for 2005
  2. A false election expenses return for 2005
  3. A false donations return for 2007
  4. A false return on the Register of Pecuniary Interests for 2006 (Payment of debt to Bob Clarkson for Peters)
  5. A false return on the Register of Pecuniary Interest for 2006 (Payment of debt to David Carter for Peters)

Now these are not just mistakes or errors. Only because of the SFO investigation has this come to light. And it gets even worse. Most semi-honest people would, once they had been caught out, would at least reveal all. But no Peters does not.

He was instructed by the House of Representatives to file amended pecuniary interest returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007. And all he did was amend them to include the two donations that had already been publicly forced out (Owen Glenn and Spencer Trust for Clarkson) but he didn’t declare the $13,640.37 the Spencer Trust paid on his benhalf to David Carter in 2006. These are the actions (assuming Weekend Herald is correct) of a pathological liar, not a cleared man.

And on that issue, it sounds like Eye to Eye at 11.30 am on Sunday will be interesting watching as Matthew Hooton is on the panel with Peters as the guest. Quoting Roar Prawn:

TVNZ sources say that Willie Jackson’s Eye to Eye tomorrow will be one of the most fiery TV debating shows ever seen in New Zealand.

Winston fronted up to the Green Room, last night to tape the show that airs on 11.30 on Sunday on TVNZ, thinking he would be up for a cosy chat with his mates Barry Soper and Chris Trotter.

He was high on hearing that the SFO had dropped criminal charges, but he was less than impressed when he realised that Jackson had decided to replace Trotter with Matthew Hooton.

Hooton won’t talk about the encounter but BustedBlonde’s media sources say that Winston tried to bluff his way out of appearing with Hooton, . saying there was no way he was going to be with someone who called him a liar.

Before they even got on air, we understand Hooton then called him a liar, a crook and a lying c***t straight to his face.

Anyway, things didn’t get much better on air, and the air was so blue Jackson had to stop the pair at one stage and re- record the show.

Our sources say that Winston always wins these debates on points but Hooton had him on the ropes more than once refusing to kowtow to the liar (our words)

Our sources say it was one of the most brutal encounters they had ever witnessed on NZ television.

That is very typical of the mischievous Willie Jackson – invite Peters on and then have Hooton on also. Can’t wait to see it.

Winston declares Spencer Trust donation

October 3rd, 2008 at 7:23 am by David Farrar

The Parliament website now records the amended return by Winston Peters for the year to 31 January 2007.

A gift from the Spencer Trust towards his electoral petition costs has been declared.

This would never have come to light if it were not for the SFO. Peters and Henry supplied false evidence to the Privileges Committee about this issue.

Now Peters has officially declared the gift, known to be $40,000, the ball is in the PM’s Court. The Cabinet Manual says:

Ministers who accept gifts worth more than the prescribed value must not only disclose them to the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, but also must relinquish them, unless they obtain the express permission of the Prime Minister to retain them.

Helen Clark must give her “express permission” or Peters is required to relinquish the gift.

Will Clark give her permission for a Minister to keep what was effectively a personal donation of $40,000? That is 80 times greater than the disclosure limit and probably the biggest gift by a magnitude ever received by a Minister.

And is the Prime Minister at all concerned that the ultimate source of the money was almost certainly the Velas? Does she think Cabinet should have been informed of these personal donations to the Minister of Racing, when they accepted his recommendation to spend taxpayer money on bigger prizes for horse races?

PM has not read report!

September 23rd, 2008 at 2:36 pm by David Farrar

This is amazing. Rodney Hide has just questioned Helen Clark on whether she is happy with the $40,000 donation to Peters from a donor through the Spencer Trust. Peters tried to block it half a dozen times but he finally got to ask it.

Clark’s response was she has not seen the wiring diagram from the SFO that was in the Privileges Committee report.

So the PM has not even bothered to read the report. This takes her hear no evil, see no evil to new levels. That $40,000 strikes cast grave doubt on the integrity of decision making around the racing portfolio and the PM declares she hasn’t even looked at the evidence.

I mean seriously just when you think the standards can not drop any lower, they do.

So Helen Clark has cleared Winston Peters from any wrong doing, and she did it without even needing to read the report of the Privileges Committee. She will presumably be voting against the report – also without reading it.

More changes to Winston’s stories

September 21st, 2008 at 8:10 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young has a very useful blog entry analysing what Winston says now, and what he said before the truth came out.

As readers will know, Winston is outraged because the SFO passed on evidence to the Privleges Committee that proved Peters and Henry lied. In Winston’s world it is outraegous if law enforcement agencies expose his lies.

Audrey notes:

Peters confirmed that the Spencer Trust had reimbursed his lawyer Brian Henry the $40,000 Henry had personally paid for costs awarded against Peters in the Tauranga electoral petition, talking to drive-time host Larry Williams on Friday night:

This is quite crucial because if anyone but Peters paid that $40,000 debt then beyond doubt that had to be declared on the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

”Mr Henry paid the money initially. He was later reimbursed out of the trust account from the Spencer Trust funds. In that sense yes,” Peters said. ”But that was a trust to assist the New Zealand First Party and any actions it might take. What’s wrong with that?”

What is wrong is Winston failed to disclose this. Just as NZ First failed to disclose donations from the Spencer Trust.  This is not a series of one off “mistakes”.

The great service done by the SFO investigation has been to expose the failure of NZ First and Peters personally to disclose funding from the Spencer Trust. And in case anyone really thinks it was all a mistake – consider the fact that these “mistakes” only came to light due to the SFO. Peters did not at any stage move to correct on his own initiative his public statements. He only admits to something once law enforcement agencies pry it out of him.

It means that the information Peters gave in a speech on August 20 to supposedly “clarify” what had been said about the $40,000 at the privileges committee two days earlier was actually not true.

“Mr Henry paid the money [$40,000] to ensure the bill was paid in time – and he was later reimbursed by myself,” Peters told Grey Power in Upper Hutt.

“He checked his records yesterday and found this was indeed the case.”

A clarifying letter was sent to the privileges committee to that effect.

People should be very aware of this point. The lie which has been exposed by the SFO is not about what was said at Privileges Commitee in response to Russel Norman. Most people would accept that you could be mistaken when responding to an unexpected query on the spot.

But what we have here is Peters claiming two days later, in a formal speech, that he had “checked the records” and Peters had reimbursed Henry. And they were so certain of this info, they sent a letter to the Privileges Committee stating this.

Their claim and letter was false. The Prime Minister once again keeps Winston with his baubles of office despite the fact he has been exposed at deliberately deceiving the public and the Privileges Committee. This was no mistake made in the heat of the moment. It was a statement made two days later which they claimed was based on a check of records.

Peters’ admission about the reimbursement also raises questions about whether the $40,000 should have been declared to Parliament in 2007 in the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

There is no question that it should have been.

We now know the Spencer Trust was run by Winstons’ brother, law partner of his brother and a staff member in Winston’s office. And it paid personal bills on behalf of Peters. So Audrey reminds us of this press conference:

Q: Mr Peters are you seriously saying that people are meant to believe that you don’t know what the ST is used for?
A: Yes I do. You know why? Because those are the facts.
Q: We asked your brother yesterday and he wouldn’t answer the question.
A: Well Audrey you should show a bit of knowledge, experience and a bit of commonsense, right? Go and ask him again.
Q: Who should we ask?
A: You’re entitled to ask it all the questions you like.
Q: But you’re not answering them.
A: How can I answer them if I’m not in charge of the trust.
Q: Because you know what that trust is using the money for.
A: Sorry I don’t.
Q: Really?
A: Well I just said no I don’t.

And as you read what are really bare faced lies (unless you think Winston can somehow not know that the Spencer Trust paid a $40,000 debt on his behalf), remember once again that Helen Clark has no problems keeping Peters on.

Audrey also goes back to the original Privileges Committee hearing when Brian Henry lied and insisted he paid for it personally (you would know the difference between paying $40,000 out of your own pocket and temporarily paying $40,000 and getting reimbursed). He obviously did not want to admit the Spencer Trust effectively paid for it, so in response to an incredulous Wayne Mapp:

Mapp: Are you seriously suggesting that you would’ve paid $40,000 in court costs which were against Mr Peters and you advised Mr Peters of that fact, and that Mr Peters would not have understood that that would’ve effectively come out of the $100,000 – well the donations received?

Henry: Mr Mapp, I’m not ‘seriously’ saying it; I am saying it. I’m not suggesting it. I’m telling you exactly what I did…..So don’t slur it – this is what I did. I’d like to finish with Mr Mapp….Mr Mapp I am telling you what I did. So please do not slur it or belittle it by saying ‘Are you seriously suggesting….’ This is actually what I did. You mightn’t like it but that’s what I did.

Such outrage, all faked.

Whale Oil also blogs about further revelations from Spencer Trustee Grant Currie. On radio Currie said that they spent money on behalf of NZ First, after consulting with “someone” who was not a duly elected office holder of NZ First. That someone would be McClay on behalf of Peters I suspect.

You have to wonder if there is a single MP or office holder in NZ First with any spine? The party president didn’t even know of the Spencer Trust. Money meant for NZ First went into the trust, and then spent on behalf of the party bypassing the authority of the NZ First President and Board.

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!

And don’t forget the Spencer Trust

September 10th, 2008 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

The Herald reminds us:

Mr Peters said he was aware in May that the party had sought “legal advice” before deciding not to declare the $80,000 donation from the trust.

“I said you must go ahead on the legal advice that you’ve got, this is not a matter for the party parliamentary organisation, it is a matter for the organisation itself, and that is what happened,” Mr Peters told Radio New Zealand yesterday.

This is the same organisation whose President, Secretary and Treasurer have never heard of the Spencer Trust?

Despite being asked, Mr Peters has never said when he became aware of the Spencer Trust. On July 29, he told a press conference that he had no knowledge of what the trust was used for.

The Herald has learned from informed sources that Mr Peters knew about the trust, how much money was kept in it at certain times, and that he directed staff to get it to pay party expenses.

So Winston says it was a matter for the organisation, and he had no knowledge of what the trust was used for. No knowledge that is, except what its bank balance was and what bills to get it to pay.

Lie #9,087,425

September 9th, 2008 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

From the NZ Herald:

Mr Peters did not return calls last night. Despite being asked, he has never said when he became aware of the trust. On July 29 he told a press conference that he had no knowledge of what the trust was used for.

So he said he had no knowledge of what the trust was used for.

The Herald has learned Mr Peters was aware of how much money was kept in the trust at certain times, and that he directed staff to get it to pay party expenses from 2005 onwards.

This is no surprise.

But the trust’s existence was kept so secret it paid over $100,000 in bills that senior party officials did not even know they had.

The Spencer Trust’s bill payments for the party included $87,648 in 2006 – but the party’s president, secretary and treasurer from that time yesterday said they had no idea the bills even existed, yet alone that they were paid.

The Deputy Leader is also on the record as saying he had never heard of The Spencer Trust. So that doesn’t make it hard to conclude who did. Meanwhile Helen says that Winston should not be held liable for the mistake of the staff in the party head office. First of all the party head office is his Ministerial bauble suite, and secondly no Officer except Peters even knew about it.

The secret $80,000 in 2007

September 8th, 2008 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young has details of the $80,000 from the Spencer Trust to NZ First in 2007, that was never declared.

The Spencer Trust in turn had, it seems, eight $10,000 cheques from eight different Vela companies.

Now the irony is that if the eight Vela companies had donated directly to NZ First, then (as they had done in the past) they may legally not have to be disclosed.

But by having the donations go through the Spencer Trust, the donation from the Spencer Trust does have to be disclosed, in my opinion. I don’t think you can look at who donated to the Spencer Trust.

Even if they had donated directly, there may still be issues. Generally a seperate company is a seperate donor as they have their own legal personality. However if each company has identical shareholders and directors, then a Judge could possibly find an issue with that – especially if they were sole shareholder and director companies.

What is interesting is that the NZ First Auditor had access to the books of the Spencer Trust. This indicates how close the two entities were. Also of interest is the fact they paid almost $90,000 of invoices on behalf of NZ First in 2006. The Party President says he had never heard of the Spencer Trust. So who handed over the invoices for payment?

My guess is the Leader. The same Leader who was making speeches railing against secret trusts.

More Spencer Trust details

September 6th, 2008 at 10:26 am by David Farrar

Firstly remember this quote:

When NZ First leader Winston Peters was asked in July if the party was funded by a trust that sometimes paid party bills, he said through a spokesman it was “a lie”.

Now read the latest details:

  • $50,000 donation in 2005
  • $17,000 of NZ First bills paid in 2005
  • $87,648 of NZ First bills paid in 2006
  • $80,000 donation in 2007

The Spencer Trust says it has paid $234,000 to or on behlf of NZ First since 2005. And during that time NZ First has filed three nil donations returns.

Helen presumably still says it was an innocent administrative error.

Dom Post exposes lie #287 from Peters

September 5th, 2008 at 7:24 am by David Farrar

Just for the sake of recording them all, the Dom Post reports:

Mr Currie said that as well as $80,000 in 2007 and $50,000 in 2005, the trust paid some NZ First bills.

“In 2005, there were two accounts that were paid on behalf of the party … probably in the region of, at a guess, $15,000 between them.” More than $10,000 in bills were paid in 2006.

When The Dominion Post asked Mr Peters in July if NZ First received money from a trust that sometimes paid party bills, he said through a spokesman: “It’s a lie.”

So many administrative errors and honest mistakes.

Dail Jones was right

September 5th, 2008 at 6:55 am by David Farrar

The last pieces of the New Zealand First funding mystery were solved today, as the Herald reveals that the “close to $100,000 than $10,000” mystery amount referred to by Dail Jones in December 2007 was a $80,000 donation from the Spencer Trust.

No wonder Peters was furious with Jones. He had accidentially revealed the existence of the Spencer Trust. As Party President Jones wasn’t even aware of the Trust – it was all Peters.

And what did Peters say at the time:

Asked if that meant “there was no big anonymous donation”, Mr Peters said “precisely”.

$80,000 is not big of course.

And in that infamous press conference:

“We have a treasurer in the party and he says it’s a consolidation of amounts around the party. He should know. One can get confused when you look at documentation and perhaps he [Mr Jones] should have spoken to the treasurer.”

Now this is fascinating. Peters refers to ti being a consolidation of amounts “around the party”. This is implying that the Spencer Trust is part of the party.

Where the $158,000 came from to “repay” NZ First’s unlawful spend at the last election:
“We’ve had anonymous donations at $10, and $20, and $50 for a long, long time because some people used to think – and it’s an attitude that still permeates New Zealand as a democracy – that one day the communists might take over and they will be all in the firing line.”

Yep all those small donations of $10, $20, $50 and oh yeah $10,000 and $25,000.

Incidentally we still don’t know where the $158,000 that should have been paid to the taxpayer went.

Now there is an interesting scenario. What if the $80,000 was made up of seperate donations each under $10,00.01? Would that have to be disclosed?

Unless the Spencer Trust is literally part of NZ First – as in an additional suffix to their main bank account – I believe the answer is yes. And it seems its money was kept in a solictor’s trust fund so the answer is they are separate. The donation is from the Spencer Trust or even the solictor’s trust fund, and was $80,000 so should have been declared.

The Four Stooges

September 4th, 2008 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has a story which reminds me of the Three Stooges, as NZ First officials have given four different reasons for their “administrative error” of not reporting a $50,000 donation in 2005:

  1. Auditor Nick Kosoof issued a letter saying “the office of New Zealand First made an administrative error
  2. MP Dail Jones, president when the return was filed in April 2006, yesterday said it was Mr Kosoof who “saw it [the donation] and forgot about it”
  3. NZ First’s treasurer at that time, accountant Brent Catchpole, pointed the problem back to the party, saying he could not give Mr Kosoof the full records as “a lot of the information wasn’t handed over to me as it should have been”
  4. Kaye Urlich, the treasurer when it was banked, denied Mr Catchpole’s claims that records were missing, saying “he got everything he needed”.

So what excuses will be made for the false 2006 and 2007 returns?

Also Peter Williams continues to show his ignorance of electoral law:

Meanwhile, Mr Peters’ lawyer friend Peter Williams, QC, yesterday revealed that the Spencer Trust had received $80,000 from the Vela family and that New Zealand First had handed over records to the SFO.

Mr Williams told Radio New Zealand he “presumed” the Vela money had gone to New Zealand First in amounts under $10,000.

The Spencer Trust was formed only in 2005 so the Vela family’s $80,000 is different from the reported $150,000 given to the party between 1999 and 2003.

That will be fascinating if the Velas have given $230,000 in total with no disclosure. Someone joked to me that if one of their horses wins the Auckland Cup, does that mean they have got their donations back!

But Williams is wrong in saying that if the money was paid over by the Spencer Trust in amounts under $10,000 it would not have to be legally disclosed (he said yesterday there had been only one accidential law break). The law requires donations from the same source to be totalled up over the calendar year, and if the Spencer Trust is a separate entity to NZ First then money from the Spencer Trust has to be added together over the year (even if the individual donors to the Spencer Trust were under $10k).

Some more “innocent mistakes”

September 4th, 2008 at 8:29 am by David Farrar

I am starting to like Grant Currie, who keeps revealing inconvenient truths about NZ First. The revelation of donations from the Spencer Trust to NZ First in 2005 was excused by the PM as an innocent mistake, or administrative error or some similiar fairy tale.

Martin Kay today reveals that Spencer Trust Trustee Mr Currie, has revealed they also made donations in 2006 and 2007 to NZ First which should have been disclosed (as they were over $10K in total each year). The 2007 ones are very significant as they can still be prosecuted until 17 November.

What new excuse will Helen and her faithful chorus of leftie blogs find to excuse this one? More administrative errors? Or maybe the money went to Winston’s legal fees and he never knew about it? Or maybe a big business conspiracy donated the money against his will as an entrapment.

I would like to be able to predict that this means Clark will now sack Peters, but alas I have no confidence she willl take any action.

Yesterday Martin Kay also blogged some relevant quotes from the past:

On July 30, Winston Peters attended a Wellington Grey Power meeting and was asked the following question by a woman in the audience: “Would you assure us here today that NZ First, if they received any money from the Spencer Trust, why wasn’t it declared on your election returns?”

His response was: “What I’ll assure you is that everything that was required to do within the law has been done.”

We now know that answer was wrong after NZ First admitted yesterday it failed to declare $50,000 donated from the Spencer Trust in the return of donations for 2005.

Wrong in 2005, 2006 and 2007. There seems to be a pattern here that is obvious to anyone not called Helen.

Who does the accounts for NZ First?

September 3rd, 2008 at 1:12 pm by David Farrar

There are more and more questions over NZ First and their accounts. Both NZPA and the Dominion Post have said that Nick Kosoof is both NZ First’s Auditor and their Accountant. Surely not?

So can someone find out the following:

  1. Who was NZ First’s Auditor in 2005?
  2. Who was NZ First’s Accountant in 2005?
  3. Who was NZ First’s Treasurer in 2005?
  4. Who was NZ First’s Party Secretary in 2005?

To the best of my iformation the Party Secretary in 2005 was not some poor office person (as Helen suggests) but Edwin Perry who was an NZ First MP at the time.

Also Audrey Young blogged in February 2008 that the Party Treasurer in 2007 was also a former NZ First MP – Brent Catchpole. Was he also Treasurer in 2005?

And then we have an interview on Nine to Noon with Peter Williams. Parts are amusing as he rants about Matthew Hooton, and parts are clearly wrong.

Williams said around 5 minutes 20 secs in:

The money that they paid, I think it was about $80,000 wasn’t it? … The moneys that were subscribed by the Vela family were paid to the Spencer trust, and in turn the Spencer trust paid the money to NZ First.

But the Spencer Trust was set up in August 2005, and the Vela donations were between 1999 and 2003.

No wonder the SFO doesn’t go along with Mr Williams insistence that it can all be cleared up in five minutes and his latest line that they have made one little mistake in 15 years of flawless behaviour.

Two other stories of note. Martin Kay in the Dom Post says:

When The Dominion Post first put to him in July that NZ First received money through a trust, he said through a spokesman: “It’s a lie.”

Mr Peters’ brother, Wayne, is one of three Spencer trustees. Fellow trustee Grant Currie said on Monday that its only purpose was to channel money to NZ First.

So Peters said it was a lie, yet the lie was his.I am sure Helen just sees it all as another innocent mistake.

Ben Thomas at NBR also points out NZ First are recycling excuses:

New Zealand First’s explanation for why it didn’t disclose a $25,000 donation allegedly funneled through the Spencer Trust will sound strangely familiar to Winston watchers.

The party’s auditor said yesterday it failed to declare the $25,000 donation from Sir Robert Jones in the 2005 year because it slipped people’s attention “during a change in administrative staff.”

That is now the second time – and for the second separate set of accounts – that the party has used the excuse of a personnel changeover for ostensibly breaching electoral finance disclosure laws.

Like all Winston Peters’ rhetorical greatest hits – “if you stop telling lies about me,  I’ll stop telling the truth about you,” for example – “administrative error” may have been too exquisite a line to only use once.

In August this year New Zealand First was let off on the late filing of its return of donations for the 2007 year, because the Electoral Commission accepted its explanation the delay was caused by “changes in the upper levels of office holders such that many had not been through the donation return process before.”

New Zealand First missed the April 30 deadline for filing its donation returns. When the late return did arrive it didn’t disclose any donations – so why the delay? It should have been a simple matter to verify no donations over $10,000 (the minimum amount that has to be declared) had been received.

The party denied media reports that its president and secretary had been waiting for the return of Parliamentary party leader Winston Peters from overseas to sign off the accounts (which would have been unusual, since he is not a legal office holder as far as the party is concerned).

Instead the secretary offered up the “office-holder changeover” scenario, and aid there had been a miscommunication between the treasurer and the auditor. The commission decided that was a reasonable excuse, and so no breach of the Act had been committed.

Given how long it seems to take the New Zealand First party to sort out its finances after these periods of flux, the commission may be tempted to ask office holders to double check the zero-return filed for 2007. It is after all apparently quite easy for cash to slip between the cracks in times of HR churn.

I think it would be very prudent for the Electoral Commission to double check the zero return for 2007, especially before the deadline for prosecution expires. The fact that the Party President is on record as referring to a large anonymous donation (a stance he has never publicly recanted) gives them more than enough grounds to start checking.

Non-disclosure an “administrative error”

September 2nd, 2008 at 8:54 pm by David Farrar

To say NZ First’s latest explanation fails the Tui test, is putting it mildy. Before we totally dismiss it out of hand, let us look at what they say:

The New Zealand First Party has admited they made a mistake by not declaring a donation they recieved from Sir Robert Jones.

The party is putting the non declaration down to an administrative error which happened at a time when they say there was an extensive changeover in administrative staff, who were new to their responsibilities.

They say the $25,000 donation was correctly banked into the New Zealand First account, along with other donations which were unfortunately overlooked when it came to declaring anything over $10,000.

The latest revelation comes after the Serious Fraud Office obtained Spencer Trust records.

The letter from auditor Nick Kosoof says New Zealand First made an administrative error by not declaring the money.

It says the amount was banked into the party’s bank account in September 2005, and unfortunately went overlooked by error, along with other donations.

This fails the credibility test on so many levels, it is not funny.

  1. The TV3 item on the Spencer Trust showed a payment of $50,000 not $25,000 paid to NZ First.
  2. NZ First has never ever declared a single donation from the Spencer Trust, so are we to believe that in three years of existence it has only received and passed onto NZ First a singular donation from Bob Jones?
  3. NZ First claim to have only had a couple of donations over $10,000 in the last decade, so how one could overlook your largest ever donation since 1996 is beyond belief.
  4. Since the Jones donation was exposed a couple of months ago there has been speculation that the NZ First 2005 return may be inaccurate. Why did no one in NZ First check until today?
  5. Why is the auditor, not the accountant, explaining the error? Are they the same person as suggested in the NZPA report?

There is a constant pattern here with NZ First – deny the donation until it is no longer credible to deny it, and then suddenly discover it somewhere. They do not deserve any benefit of the doubt. Thank God the SFO is investigating.

Even though they can not be prosecuted under the Electoral Act for the breach, it doesn’t mean that the SFO shouldn’t disclose how many other donations were illegally not declared to the Electoral Commission.

This also poses a challenge for Helen Clark. She has said she will act if there is evidence of illegal behaviour. We now have an admission from NZ First that it broke the Electoral Act 2003 in April 2006 (and maybe again since then). And filing a false donations return is not a minor or technical breach – it is incredibly serious.

It’s all just a mistake

September 2nd, 2008 at 3:54 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Mr Brown described the failure to declare the donation as a genuine mistake.

“I can’t explain it. I think it was a genuine mistake,” Mr Brown told reporters as he entered Parliament this afternoon.

Of course it was. All a genuine mistake. We thought the $50,000 was actually a withdrawal, not a deposit.

NZ First’s 2005 donations return

September 2nd, 2008 at 10:57 am by David Farrar

TV3 last night interviewed one of the Trustees of the Spencer Trust. They report:

3 News has been given an extract of the Spencer Trust’s financial records which show a $25,000 donation made by Sir Robert Jones did go to New Zealand first. …

Grant Currie is one of three trustees of the Spencer Trust.

“The only purpose of the trust was to receive donations from supporters of NZ Trust and to pass them to New Zealand First,” explains Currie.

The Trust was formed in August 2005 – its intention was to channel money from donors to New Zealand First.

The statement shows that money along with another anonymous $25,000 donation was paid to New Zealand First less than a month later, on the 7th of September.

“If the allegation is that Mr Jones’ donation didn’t go where he intended it to then it completely refutes that allegation,” says Currie.

Mr Currie is right that that particular allegation does appear to be refuted, if bank records back up their books.

However the problem for NZ First is that these documents prove $50,000 was donated to NZ First on 7 September 2005 from the Spencer Trust. And in all probability, much more than that on other occassions.

And according to the Electoral Commission, NZ First made a nil donation return in 2005.

One the face of it, this is impossible to reconcile, and prima facie the NZ First donations return was false – a very serious matter. The law in force at the time was the Electoral Act 1993. S214G(4) says:

Every secretary of a political party registered under Part 4 who forwards to the Electoral Commission under subsection (1)(a) a return that is false in any material particular—

(a) is, if the secretary forwards the return knowing that the return is false in any material particular, guilty of a corrupt practice and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 year or to a fine not exceeding $20,000, or to both; and

(b) is, in any other case, guilty of an illegal practice and is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding $20,000, unless the secretary proves—

(i) that he or she had no intention to mis-state or conceal the facts; and

(ii) that he or she took all reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure that the information in the return was accurate.

So the NZ First Party Secretary may have commited a corrupt practice or an illegal practice. They may argue of course that the money from the Spencer Trust went into a special account controlled by, umm, say the Leader, and they knew nothing about it. This could explain why the NZF Party President says he has never heard of the Spencer Trust – something unlikely if it went into their main bank account.

Now even though the law appears prima facie to have been broken, s226 means they can not be prosecuted for it:

A prosecution against any person for a corrupt practice or an illegal practice shall be commenced within 6 months after the offence was committed

But this is not an issue just of will someone go to jail. Winston Peters needs to explain to the “court of public opinion”. The media needs to demand from NZ First how they can reconcile their nil 2005 donation return with the $50,000 donation from the Spencer Trust.

Now remember Helen Clark and Winston Peters campaigned on financial transparency. Regardless of the SFO findings, does the Prime Minister have no problems with a political party that appears to have filed a false donations return, or multiple false donation returns? How does she reconcile this with her stance on wanting greater electoral funding transparency?

It will be very interesting if the SFO investigation reveals exactly what bank account the $50,000 was paid into. Is it one known to and controlled by the party? Unless it is, then the money may still be found not to have gone to the intended recepient. If it did go into an account controlled by the party, then the donations return is false – you can not have it both ways.

A nice suspension

August 30th, 2008 at 8:46 am by David Farrar

As I understand it, Helen Clark has suspended Winston Peters only from his portfolios, but not as a Minister. In other words he still gets his normal pay, his housing and transport allowances, his office, his ministerial funding and most importantly of all his staff, except the portfolio specific ones.

This means he gets to run his election campaign with full Ministerial resources, and they don’t even have any Ministerial duties to attend to.

John Key makes clear that his ruling out Winston is not tied to the SFO investigation:

Mr Key said questions still remained around the 2003 parliamentary inquiry into the scampi fisheries quota and whether Mr Peters had misled the public in relation to the Glenn donation.

He also questioned Mr Peters’ assertion today that Sir Robert’s donation had found its way to NZ First. If that was the case then why was it not declared, he said.

Mr Peters’ credibility had been severely dented and he would now find it hard to trust his word.

“We’ve had so many instances now where Winston Peters’ version of events just doesn’t stack up with the version of events presented by others.

“Really the call we made on Wednesday to effectively cut Winston Peters and New Zealand First loose wasn’t a call we made easily or lightly. We did it with the full knowledge it may well cost National an opportunity to be in government,” he said.

“I would find it enormously difficult trusting the word of Winston Peters.”

Key picks up a point I have made previously. The Herald today says:

The statement, several pages long, was generated by the trust and showed incomings and outgoings. It showed money from the Vela brothers and Sir Robert Jones going in, then being paid to New Zealand First.

If this is true, then NZ First have filed false donation returns for years on end.  As Winston Peters was railing against secret trusts, he had one which was funding NZ First. If what Peter WIlliams says is true, then how did the Auditor for NZ First ever sign off the donation returns? Or is there some explanation as to how Bob Jones gave $25,000 to the Spencer Trust, the Spencer Trust gave it to NZ First and NZ First does not declare a donation from the Spencer Trust?

Key again makes his stance clear in another Herald story:

“From our point of view,” he said, “the appointment of a minister to Cabinet has to be done on the basis that as Prime Minister I can look that person in the eye and have confidence that I can rely on their word.

“In the case of Winston Peters, I’m just not confident I can do that.”

Yet Helen is. How can anyone in NZ really think Peters was telling the truth when he said in July 2008 that he only first knew of the Glenn donation that day? I mean Helen Clark told him about it in February 2008, even if he didn’t actually know about it since it was solicited in 2005.

Hypocrisy Watch

August 12th, 2008 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A viewer alerted me to this question from last year:

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister agree that any law, including electoral law, requires the participants to do what is morally right as well as what is legally right, and does she think that this is the reason the National Party is having so much trouble interpreting the Electoral Finance Bill?

Now maybe Doug Woolerton might like to explain for us how NZ First is doing what is morally right by operating a secret trust fund that donors pay into, so that not only is the identity of the donor hidden, but the identity of the trust itself is hidden from both the party and the public.

SFO talks to Bob Jones

August 10th, 2008 at 8:06 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports that two investigators from the Serious Fraud Office met Sir Robert Jones during the week, as part of their work in determining whether to launch a full formal investigation.

Jones threatens NZ First with Police

August 5th, 2008 at 8:21 am by David Farrar

Bob Jones has said he will complain to the Police if he does not get an answer from NZ First:

Sir Robert Jones has written again to New Zealand First, this time threatening to go the police if he gets another “evasive reply” about where his $25,000 donation went. …

“My sole concern is the money was used for party purposes, but getting a straight answer from New Zealand First is a recipe for disappointment,” Sir Robert said. “If the money has not reached the party, it constitutes theft. If I receive another evasive reply then clearly it is a matter for the police.”

Here is the dilemna for NZ First. If they say “Yes the money was spent on behalf of NZ First” then they have arguably filed a false donations return. If they say “No, we won’t tell you” then Bob will go to the Police.