None of the political cases being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office look likely to be in court before the election.
The rumour and allegations that surround them stepped up a notch yesterday with an Auckland High Court decision to lift the name suppression of the four people charged in connection with donations to the National Party.
The case is not expected in court till next year.
Meanwhile the Serious Fraud Office investigation of NZ First looks like it will drag on for some months.
There is even talk of NZ First itself taking legal action to try and speed the process up because, in the meantime, the party risks becoming a free-fire zone for its critics.
National, on the other hand, has the luxury of having Jami Lee Ross now silenced by the sub judice requirements of the court given that he has been charged.
But even so, he sent out a four-page parting shot to journalists yesterday afternoon.
“I have no intention of letting those who were involved get away with it or blame me in a way that is for their benefit or the National Party’s benefit,” he said.
“Politics is dirty.
“I know that now and have been the victim of this.”
The other three accused who were named yesterday were unsurprisingly the three Chinese donors who were involved in splitting the $100,000 donation into $15,000 slices which consequently were able to be granted anonymity.
The donors were Zhang Yikun, Zheng Shijia, and Zheng Hengjia.
Zhang was a member of the Communist Party’s Consultative Conference in Hainan Province for five years until 2018 and chairs the International Chew federation which the Christchurch academic who is a constant critic of the Chinese Communist Party, Professor Anne-Marie Brady, alleges is an agency of the CCP.
Zhang has also been pictured with a number of MPs including the Prime Minister and Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff.
Last night Brady retweeted a tweet from a Chinese New Zealander who calls themselves, “Arctosia” which Brady translated to read: “don’t muck around anymore mate, tell the people of Aotearoa-NZ, & the courts the full story behind & CCP-linked donations rort. Do it for our democracy.”
Ross says he is ready to reveal more.
“When I am permitted to say more and present evidence, I will,” his statement said.
“It will then be clear who was behind any scheme.
“But the public statement from Mr Bridges and the party that they had no involvement is simply untrue.”
Ross said that at the time the donations were made, he was not aware the way they were made was intended to defeat the requirements of the Electoral Act.
“To the extent I played a part, that was as asked of me by the Party leader,” he said.
“Any suggestion that I might be behind any deception is simply untrue.
“The party and those who now make this claim, seek to blacken my name in order to avoid accountability for themselves.
“I will continue to campaign for greater transparency in our laws around political fundraising.
“Our democracy belongs to New Zealanders and not agents of foreign states.
“Our political parties have been feeding off money connected to foreign governments for far too long.
“It needs to stop.”
The NZ First situation is more complicated; essentially, the party argues that its establishment of the NZ First Foundation to warehouse donations for the PPartywas legal. Because of that POLITIK understands they may now seek some clarity from the courts ahead of any SFO decision.
There are also tensions within New Zealand First over the role played by the Auckland lawyer, Brian Henry, who is one of the trustees of the NZ First Foundation.
Though Henry carries the title of party Judicial Officer, he appears to report directly to Winston Peters rather than the party itself.
RNZ has reported that a document headed “Proposal to Establish a Strategic Fund Raising and Management Vehicle for New Zealand First” said that the “generally weak” state of electorates and a “lack of success” at board level in raising funds meant a new business model was needed to bring money into the party
“The precedent is clear,” it said.
“It is the National Party’s National Foundation.
“In essence, this proposal suggests a cloning of that model into the New Zealand First Foundation.
“There can be little doubt that the model is legally sound and is operated in a manner that meets all legal and ethical obligations.”
But NZ First may have confused the foundation with the Waitemata Trust, which National used prior to the 2011 election to launder donations.
However, legislation was passed after the 2008 election tightening up the law on anonymous donations and how they should be handled by parties.
National abolished its trusts and revved up its foundation, which is a capital fund in which all donations are declared.
But the Serious Fraud Office has opened a can of political worms.
Some big donors, in particular prominent business people, are reluctant to have their political donations made public and the big parties usually find ways to accommodate them.
It would seem a possible outcome for this current spate of cases and investigations that there may be a further tightening up of the rules around declaring the sources of political donations.
But that will have to wait till next year too.