NZ First backbencher Clayton Mitchell has announced he will retire from politics at the coming election.
The Tauranga-based MP, who has spent six years in Parliament, announced he would quit in a statement issued on Friday. He said he decided a year ago that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
NZ First confirmed eight of its nine current MPs would stand in the 2020 election, with only Mitchell retiring.
Mitchell, the party’s whip, has primarily attracted headlines for controversial reasons in the past year – including a scuffle in a bar and links to a donations scandal.
A Stuff investigation into previously undisclosed donations received by the NZ First Foundation, which was attached to the political party, found Mitchell received many of the large donations that were funnelled into the foundation. NZ First donors told Stuff that they thought donations were headed to the party, not a secretive trust.
The Serious Fraud Office continues to investigate the NZ First Foundation, and expects to complete the investigation before the 2020 election.
I think his retirement is because they know there is a fairly high probability he will be charged by the Serious Fraud Office.
The Electoral Act states:
Every person to whom a party donation is given or sent must, within 10 working days after receiving the donation, either transmit the donation to the party secretary; or deposit the donation into a bank account nominated by the party secretary.
The donors have said the donations were for the NZ First Party. If Mitchell received them he was legally obliged to pass them onto the party secretary or pay into a bank account nominated by them.
UPDATE: I’ve had it suggested to me Mitchell never handled the cheques and that he only told donors what bank account to pay into. This may mean he isn’t liable under the above provision but may still have issues as a potential transmitter.
The real person of interest is the person who directed Mitchell as to which bank account to give to donors.