Sir Robert confirms undisclosed donations

Well even though Winston has said it is all lies, Sir Robert went on to Radio NZ this morning to discuss his donations. Extracts from the NZPA story:

Sir Robert today confirmed to Radio New Zealand he made a $25,000 donation to the party for the last election (2005).  He had now written to NZ First president Dail Jones after speculation that money he donated had not got to the party.

I believe a number of donors are now asking where their money went. Owen Glenn thought he donated to NZ First and it went into Winston’s legal expenses. Sir Robert thought he donated to NZ First and it went into The – the second secret fund we have learnt of this week.

Sir Robert also said he had made large contributions to NZ First in the 1990s when the party was being established.  “I’m not worried about the $25,000, that’s not a lot. I’m worried about the other $150,000 he took off me in the early days,” he said.

And these have never been disclosed. Now before the 1993 Electoral Act was amended in 1995 they might not have to have been. If they were paid into a Trust and the Trust donated to NZ First or paid bills on its behalf, then that should have been disclosed.

Sir Robert said he hated NZ First’s attacks on Asians but the last time he saw Mr Peters “a lot of drinking went on” and Sir Robert begrudgingly gave $25,000.

Note that Sir Robert has said explicitly Winston was directly soliciting the money – something he denies he ever does.

Sir Robert said the cheque was written out by one of his staff members to Spencer Trust — described by The Dominion Post as sometimes being used to pay NZ First bills.

There had been payments of $50,000 “here or there” to other parties, Sir Robert said. He would be concerned if donations to the party never reached the party.

Sir Robert has said he has not voted National since 1981 so unlikely to be National.

“I’ve never been approached by the Greens and Maori Party, I must confess,” Sir Robert said.
He did not like the thesis of the Maori Party and wouldn’t have given them money but asked if he would give to the Greens he said: “I probably would, but I don’t want to say that”.

Frog better get onto this!

Also interesting stuff on the money solicited:

In Parliament yesterday National MP , a lawyer, said Mr Henry could not run a trust account.  “He is a barrister sole, and one of the things about barristers is they don’t have trust accounts,” she said during the general debate.

“They are not audited. They are not subject to Law Society rules about trust accounts and the reason is they don’t hold other people’s money.

“They simply render an account and it gets paid.”  Ms Collins said she had been a lawyer for more than 20 years and had been a member of the Auckland District Law Society and the New Zealand Law Society.

“I have never once come across a situation where a barrister’s job is to ring up people in Monaco and ask them to pay $100,000 into a fees account,” she said.

“I have never once heard of it and I sat for years on the complaints committee of the Auckland District Law Society…not once did we ever hear anything about barristers ringing up trying to solicit money for their clients’ fees.”

It is indeed very unusual for barristers to be involved in the money side of things – that is meant to go all through the solicitor.

Now people may be interested in NZ First’s disclosed donations of over $10,000 since 1996:

1996 Peter McCardle $10,000
1996 Charles Sturt $12,500
2002 WestpacTrust $10,000
2002 Gold Times Sports $15,000
2003 Contact Energy $10,000
2004 Contact Energy $10,000

This is a very low level of disclosed donations. Every minor parties like the Alliance have disclosed far more than this. Now looking at this you would think they have not had any donors of over $10,000 since 2004. And in fact we know there have been significant donations of over $10,000 for the benefit of NZ First and Peters.

There are two issues with The Spencer Trust. The first is NZ First’s of trust funds to hide donor’s identity. This is perfectly legal but something he has railed against in public. So total .

The bigger issue is why there is no record of The Spencer Trust donating to NZ First. Because by not disclosing its relationship to NZ First, it removes the ability of the public to be critical of the use of the trust fund. You see people know National gets large donations from the Waitemata Trust. National then has scrutiny from the media and the public on those donations and their political image gets somewhat tarnished by the use of the Trusts (even though quite legal).

But what NZ First appears to have done is kept the existence of both the “legal fund trust” and the Spencer Trust a total secret, hence removing the ability of the media and the public to pass judgement on their practices. This is of course a lack of transparency that is worse than anything Peters has criticised other parties for.

And if the Spencer Trust has been paying bills on behalf of NZ First, then that could well be seen by electoral authorities as an effective donation which should be disclosed.

How many more secret trusts are out there?

UPDATE: Extracts from the transcript are after the break:

PRESENTER (SEAN PLUNKET): Further details been reported this morning about donations to New Zealand First. The Dominion Post newspaper says Sir Robert Jones gave $25,000 to the party but it is questioning where the money went. Well Sir Robert Jones ah, joins us on the line ah, now. Good morning to you.

SIR ROBERT JONES: Hello Sean.

PRESENTER: Ah, firstly, is $25,000…

JONES: First, first not firstly.

Ha I love it – he corrects his use of language.

PRESENTER: I just want to come back quickly ah, just a couple of quick points ah, on this $25,000 no, donation. This is back around 2005, as best you can remember.

JONES: Yes. It’s, it was for the last election yeah.

PRESENTER: And it was Mr Peters who approached you for the money.

JONES: Yes because…

PRESENTER: So there was no separation between the fundraising and Mr Peters.

JONES: No ah, but that’s probably not unreasonable, I mean I’m, I’ve just read this Dominion thing and I think they’re being a bit rich on the racing one. Winston’s always been a racing man. It bores me to tears and, and…

So very clear that Winston directly asked for the money, and then it was arranged to go into The Spencer Trust.

JONES: …to Dail Jones and said we’re not worried about the 25 grand, that’s not a lot, I’m worried about the other 150 he took off me in the early days. If that’s never been used for the party I think it’s a bit rich and so I’ll be interested to see what Dail…

And they have never disclosed a donation from Sir Robert, or indeed any donation of greater than $15,000.

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