Richard Harman at Politik reports:
There are concerns within New Zealand First that the Serious Fraud Office could derail the party’s election campaign.
The SFO investigation is a symptom, not a cause of problems.
In April the SFO’s Director, Julie Read, said the office was on track to complete its investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation and confirm whether any charges would be laid before election day. But Parliament rose yesterday and Writ Day, which is the formal regulatory start to the election campaign, is only nine days away on August 16. Obviously were the office to announce any charges, even from now, would leave NZ First without a chance to defend itself but with a heavy smear hanging over it for the duration of the campaign. An SFO spokesperson has confirmed to POLITIK that Read’s April statement stands; that the office expects to make the announcements before the election.
The problem for NZ First is that from what I know of the facts (and they may be incomplete) laws have been broken – the only thing unsure is which laws. If the NZF Foundation is seen as part of NZ First then disclosure laws have been broken and if the NZF Foundation is not seen as part of NZ First then different disclosure laws have been broken.
Asked if he was contemplating trying to take any action against the Serious Fraud office, he said: “Let me just tell you, I’m contemplating going out there and doing extraordinarily well in this campaign.” His refusal to confirm or deny the possibility that he might take action lends weight to suggestions tons in Auckland legal circles that that that is precisely what NZ First might do; that they could injunct the Serious Fraud Office to prevent them from laying any charges before election day.
Well they could try to injunct the SFO. That would be most interesting.