SFO files charges in National Party donations case

The Serious Fraud Office announced:

The Serious Fraud Office filed criminal charges today against four people in relation to donations paid into a National Party electorate bank account.

The defendants are scheduled to appear in the Auckland District Court on 25 February.

The SFO will not make any further comment until any name suppression issues have been dealt with.

I have no knowledge of the case, but my assumption is that the four people are the donors, not anyone from the party.

As charges have been laid, I assume the SFO is alleging that the individual donors were not donating their own money (which would be legal) but donating on behalf of someone else (which must be disclosed by them). This is quite wrong, as our disclosure laws state you can’t be a conduit for someone else, without disclosing their identity.

Basically it is quite legal for someone to ask say 10 friends to each donate $10,000 each, and have them all recorded as individual donations under the $15,000 disclosure limit. This is known as bundling.

But it is illegal to give $10,000 each to 10 friends and ask them to donate it on your behalf.

Now again I have no knowledge of the details of this case, but the fact of the charges suggest this is the most likely scenario.

This is of course very embarrassing for National. Even though the party presumably (if correct the charges are against the donors only) did nothing wrong (in fact HQ insisted on getting details for each donor, and verifying they were eligible to donate), it is still a bad look to have charges laid in relation to a donation to you.

At a minimum the party should, once the legal issues are dealt with, refund the donation.

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