Readers will know that the defendants in the NZ First donations trial were found not guilty. I acknowledge that verdict and my comments here are not to suggest they should be guilty, but that the logic used by the Judge is really (to be blunt) terrible and the decision should either be appealed, or the law changed quickly. The key aspects are:
‘Party donation’ is not defined by the party’s benefit, but by the party’s receipt of the
This is a preposterous and strained interpretation. The Judge has decided that you ignore the intentions of the person donating the money, and instead a donation only counts as a party donation if the person they gave it to actually passed it on. The intent of the law is very clear as it creates a duty to pass the money on, but the law is toothless because it has been decided that if you don’t pass it on, then it automatically can’t be a party donation that has to be passed on.
The law has a specific offence about not passing on party donations, and the Judge has said if you don’t pass the donation on, then by the fact you didn’t pass it on it isn’t a party donation, so there is no offence!
Now the Judge had strong evidence that both defendants were very involved in the administration of the affairs of NZ First. But in another shocking conclusion he decided:
The payments determinedly were not made to EF or FG in those capacities
So he has said that you can be totally involved in the administration of a party, and you can solicit funds for that party but if you then fail to hand the funds over to the party and instead stick it in the bank account of a company you own that provides services to the party, then you were wearing a different hat at the time, so that is all okay.
The people not meant to have a duty to pass a donation on are people with basically no connection to the party. If you go up to a random Mrs Smith on a street and give her $5,000 and say I want this to go to the Greens, then the obligation doesn’t apply. But these two individuals were given the money because they were representing the party, and it is beyond me how the Judge can decide they were wearing a different hat at the time because the people giving the money were not told of these different hats.
It really is an appalling judgement. I have no issue with the defendants being found not guilty on the basis there could be reasonable doubt, but the decision by the Judge that a donation intended for a party is not a party donation if you fail to pass it on to them can not be allowed to stand. It must be appealed or over-ruled by Parliament.