Posts Tagged ‘Winston Peters’

Peters: gone, on the evidence

September 9, 2008

Expat billionaire Owen Glenn’s version of the events surrounding his donation to Winston Peters legal fund is supported by telephone records and an independent witness. (More detailed account here.) Although Peters has yet to appear before Parliament’s Privileges Committee, it is difficult to see how he can salvage anything of his reputation for honesty now.

Top horse trainer Paul Moroney has provided an affidavit to the Privileges Committee saying that he was at a lunch at Karaka Horse Sales in 2006 at which Peters thanked Glenn for his help.

“During the luncheon discussion, part of the conversation between Mr Peters and Mr Glenn involved Mr Peters thanking Mr Glenn for his help to him.

“Mr Glenn had told me before the lunch that he was meeting Mr Peters over the lunch, because he had made a donation to assist Mr Peters fund his legal expenses concerning the Tauranga election result. I recall Mr Glenn telling me that Mr Peters had contacted him to ask for his help with this.”

Glenn has provided a record from 14 December 2005 of a call to Peters’ mobile, which Glenn says was to “inform him that I agreed to contribute”.

All other things being equal, an independent witness’s testimony trumps that of any other witnesses, such as Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry, in a court. Documentary evidence that confirms one side of the story also carries a great deal of weight when it comes to a conflict of evidence. On the face of it, Peters has lied to Parliament and to Prime Minister Clark about knowing about the Glenn donation. Serious stuff. But we will have to wait until tomorrow before demanding the axe. Due process.

Glenn’ also revealed that he consulted Labour Party President Mike Williams before donating to Peters’ legal fund, to ensure it would not be seen by Labour as “being unhelpful to its own interests”. We need to know more about that before we can start drawing conclusions, but that hasn’t stopped the righties of late from forming up lynching mobs, so expect an outpouring of froth in the blogosphere.

The big lie

September 5, 2008

“Since the formation of NZ First, we have assiduously at all times complied with the electoral law of this country.” (Source.)

Some of us have been prepared, even in the face of growing incredulity, to let the processes of the law take their course before pronouncing judgement on Winston Peters. You know, innocent until proven guilty, a cornerstone of our legal system.

As a result we cannot be accused of incorrectly accusing him of lying when he said “NO”, the large donation to NZ First revealed by party president Dail Jones did not come from Owen Glenn. Nor of incorrectly accusing him of lying when he said that donations from Sir Robert Jones reached NZ First. Others can be.

However, NZ First’s repeated failure to declare donations from the Spencer Trust is difficult to fathom and impossible to excuse. A complaint having been made, the Police must expeditiously decide whether to lay charges; and this time, ignoring a blantant breach of the Electoral Act would be unforgiveable.

Further, Peters must have known that NZ First had not been complying with its legal requirements on disclosure when he howled time and again that it was “assiduously at all times” doing so. After all, it was the Party’s failure to comply that gave rise to these controversies. Peters must have known about the failure to comply. He must have been lying.

Despite the touching faith in provincial lawyers’ and accountants’ competence displayed by a kiwiblog commenter and retailed by right-wing blogs, it is possible that amateurism is at the root of Peters’ problems.  (Or, looked at another way, provided the ammunition to mount a campaign to eliminate him.)

Peters and NZ First stand condemned not of excepting large anonymous donations — theirs pale into insignificance compared to National’s — or of keeping these secret through shady trust funds — ditto — or even of making mistakes in declaring incomes or expenses in the recent past — eveybody is guilty of that. But of lying about it.

There is now more than enough proven to justify cutting Peters loose.

Failing the credibility test

September 3, 2008

NZ First has fessed up to omitting to declare a donation they received from Sir Robert Jones, noted pugalist and property developer (and at the same time a donation of the same amount from an anonymous donor). It says that this resulted from an administrative error that came at a time when there was an extensive changeover in administrative staff.

This is not a trivial matter, and would have been a serious breach of the Electoral Act had it been investigated within six months of it happening.

However, mistakes do happen. The National Party had to fess up to receiving an advantage of more than $100,000 at the last election because of administrative error.

Given that National knows only too well how these things happen, you’d expect them to cut NZ First a little slack on this. You’d be wrong. National’s (informal) blogger-in-chief, Farrar, is careful (not!) not to “dismiss [the NZ First explanation] totally out of hand”. Let’s test his credibility:

“[The explanation] fails the credibility test on so many levels, it is not funny.

1. The TV3 item on the Spencer Trust showed a payment of $50,000 not $25,000 paid to NZ First.

Umm, yes, there were two donations of $25,000, and $25,000 times two makes $50,000. They admitted not declaring either. Strike one, DPF.

2. NZ First has never ever declared a single donation from the Spencer Trust, so are we to believe that in three years of existence it has only received and passed onto NZ First a singular donation from Bob Jones?

No, you are expected to believe that the others were $10,000 or less. On the evidence of the Vela cheque for $9995, this doesn’t seem unreasonable. Strike two, DPF.

3. NZ First claim to have only had a couple of donations over $10,000 in the last decade, so how one could overlook your largest ever donation since 1996 is beyond belief.

Only if you are determined not to believe anything that might not play to your particular meme. The NZ First explanation seems more plausible than National’s about its $100,000+ GST oversight, and a lot of us have accepted National’s explanation. Oh, and there was another $25,000 donation at the same time, remember, so it’s not true that this is NZ First’s “largest ever donation since 1996.” Strike three, DPF. You’re out, but let’s continue…

4. Since the Jones donation was exposed a couple of months ago there has been speculation that the NZ First 2005 return may be inaccurate. Why did no one in NZ First check until today?

Fair question, but what’s the point of it? Perhaps you should ask the NZ First auditor. Who knows, there may even be a reasonable explanation.

5. Why is the auditor, not the accountant, explaining the error? Are they the same person as suggested in the NZPA report?

A fair person would be hard put to argue that this issue means that NZ First’s explanation “fails the credibility test”, DPF. But then, you’re not being a fair person here are you?

Postscript: I’d like to know who leaked the details about Glenn’s letter to the Parliamentary Privileges Select Committee, and efforts to get him to talk to the Committee via video conference call, to the Herald. It is supposed to be a fair and unbiased process, after all.

[Update: Helen Clark makes the same point that I do in the postscript, “There are clearly people on the privileges committee with an agenda who clearly leak information out beyond committee walls.”

Re-righting history

September 3, 2008

One of the most annoying things about the Peters saga is the way that Peters’ right-wing persecutors keep changing the facts to suit themselves. Take Farrar’s latest Peters-related thread (according to toad at g-blog about the 35th in a week!). He says:

“Apart from the motivation issue (Glenn has no motivation to lie, while Peters/Henry have plenty) of who is telling the truth, there is also the timing issue. Glenn has not just suddenly stated that Peters solicited the money. He told the PM this back in February. Peters denied it, and denied a donation, and the donation was later established to be correct… The fact of the donation has been established. “

Firstly, Peters’ initial denial was in response to claims that NZ First had received a donation of $100,000 from Glenn. It hadn’t. That is the fact that has been established. Farrar is wrong.

For example, here’s Audrey Young’s summary of 20 February:

“TVNZ has just reported that Winston Peters is furious with his party president and new MP Dail Jones over the comments he made this morning about finding a large anonymous donation in December and that he was “completely wrong. Peters also denied to TVNZ that the party had ever received a donation from Owen Glenn, which is accepted.”

Well, Peters was right. Dail Jones was wrong. Glenn donated the money to Peters’ legal fees fund. Glenn’s entitled to consider that he donated the money to NZ First, and I’m entitled to think that, as Glenn is not precisely correct about this and other details — does anyone really think that Clark offerred Glenn the post of Minister of Transport? — he could be mistaken about who asked for the money. Motivation is not necessarily a factor, despite what Farrar would have you believe.

And if motivation is a factor, it is simply not true endlessly to parrot, as Farrar does, John Key’s line that Glenn has no motivation to lie and Peters does. There’s this, for example:

Has the snub come back to bite?

Has the snub come back to bite?

I’m with toad, who writes:

“Now, I’m not suggesting the allegations against Peters are not serious. They are. But they are being investigated by both the Serious Fraud Office and Parliament’s Privileges Committee, and all will come out in due course.

“In a week when we saw Labour announce its Emissions Trading Scheme will go ahead and National announce it would be supporting tolls on roads, I would have thought both the MSM and bloggers might have been giving these issues some more attention.”

Peters: The other story

September 2, 2008

Chris Trotter points out that those expected to investigate whether notice of the SFO inquiry into donations to Winston Peters was leaked to National are the very same recipients of leaks from right-wing sources about the same donations to Peters. He asks, who is watching the watchers?

That there has been a well orchestrated campaign designed to eliminate Peters politically — thereby easing National/ACT’s path to power — has been pretty clear from about week 2. I’ve posted on it here and here. More recently Trotter revealed being told that, “There’s a big pot of money out there to get Peters this time – big money.”

Now Trotter’s provided some questions for our fearless investigative media purveyors of leaked ammunition against Winston Peters:

1. When Alan Gibbs donated $100,000 to Act earlier this year was this the sort of return he had in mind?

2. Who is currently employing/supporting the individual who leaked the material identifying the Vela Brothers?

3. Are Owen Glenn’s actions motivated by a public-spirited interest in transparency, or by a desire to be revenged upon the Labour Government for publicly humiliating him at the opening of the Auckland Business School?

4. How did a copy of a videotape thought to be securely contained at TVNZ headquarters in Auckland end up in the hands of Rodney Hide?

5. Why is that tape being presented to the public as containing vital evidence against Winston Peters – when his name isn’t mentioned even once?

6. If Gallery (and other) journalists are not being fed by Opposition parties, how is it that the right-wing blogosphere is abuzz with the information they are about to release – before they release it?

We’ll probably the the answers one day — there’s a good book in this — but not in time for the voters to know the truth behind current events. And not from those who are so inextricably involved.

Did SFO tip off Key?

September 1, 2008

Prime Minister Clark aired her suspicions this morning on TV One’s Breakfast programme that the Serious Fraud Office tipped off the National Party last week about its intention to investigate NZ First:

“I find the National Party’s statement and timing interesting because I would say it’s almost certain they got a tip from the Serious Fraud Office that it was about to move.”

It’s a fair point. That exact same thought occurred to me last week. The timing, as with the whole series of revelations about donations to Winston Peters, was just too neatly timed. In the real world you expect a little messiness. But messiness detracts from PR impact (as John McCain is finding to his cost this week).

Clark’s “challenged Key and the SFO “directly to come clean because I think it’s a very serious thing if an agency like the SFO is leaking to the Opposition.”

Why did the SFO not just ask?

August 30, 2008

Winston Peters’ lawyer, Peter Williams QC met the SFO today to give them documents which he said showed donations to the party were used as intended. According to the Herald report:

“He said he had seen a statement from the Spencer Trust, which received the donations, which revealed the money was used as intended and he would be handing it to senior SFO executive Gib Beattie at this morning’s meeting in Auckland.

“The statement was issued by Mr Peters’ brother, Wayne Peters, a Whangarei lawyer and Spencer Trust administrator.”

Williams also said that the SFO had bungled its inquiry by not asking to see the Spencer Trust books. It does seem strange that the SFO didn’t ask Winston Peters if he had an explanation. They must have known where to find him.

John Key has apparently stated that if Peters had the documents he would have proferred them months ago, according to the Herald. Seems Key got this wrong. Would he make important decisions on the basis of incorrect assumptions were he to gain office?

Williams also said after the meeting with the SFO:

“I believe that eventually justice will triumph and that in this case there will be an absolute clearance and there will hopefully be apologies from all those who have been severely prejudicial and haven’t look at the facts.”

It is not known at this time whether he meant to include the various right-wing bloggers who have been frenzedly attacking Peters at every turn in recent weeks.

Peters: Back in 5 minutes?

August 30, 2008

As Audrey Young points out, Winston Peters’ voluntary, albeit inevitable, stand down from his portfolios is “designed to give every suggestion of it being temporary.”

Clark’s assumption of the portfolios certainly gives that appearance. How can the Prime Minister carry on as Minister of Foreigh Affairs and fight an election campaign?

Young reports that:

“Peters and his lawyer, Peter Williams, QC, are taking documentation from the secret Spencer Trust to the SFO in Auckland this morning.”

Williams says that the documentation will prove that the donations under investigation by the SFO had reached NZ First.

If that is the case — and Williams is a very highly respected member of the legal profession — that would presumably see the SFO investigation come to an abrupt end.

Peters would then be able to argue that he has demonstrated that Owen Glenn did not actually make a donation to NZ First — the subject of his “NO” sign — and that the allegations about the diversion of the Velas and Jones donations were false.

Clark says that, “If the SFO finds no case to answer, then reinstatement is obvious.”

However, Peters might have won these battles, but not yet the war. There would still be outstanding the allegations of corruption made by Rodney Hide under parliamentary privilege, along with the conflict over whether Peters solicited the donation for Owen Glenn and which is a separate matter from the SFO investigation.

Unless he can demonstrate <em> before the election</em> that there is also nothing in either of these latter allegations, then the right will most likely have been victorious in their very obvious, well orchestrated campaign to eliminate him.

Certainly that is what Key is now banking on, having declared, “From National’s point of view, we’re ruling out working with New Zealand First and Winston Peters.” Key presumably knows what more dirt is waiting for the DomPost and Herald to fling. But then Clark’s seen the documentation.

Peters stands down

August 29, 2008

At last. Peters has faced up to the reality of the situation and stood down.

He may not be guilty of any of the charges made against him — as the Director of the SFO emphasised yesterday — but it is simply untenable to have a Minister of the Crown carrying out his ministerial duties whilst under investion by the SFO.

I hope that Peters does have the evidence he promises, as otherwise we won’t get to the bottom of this before the election. But I’m not holding my breath.

Peters’ time running short

August 28, 2008

Serious Fraud Office director Grant Liddell has confirmed the SFO will investigate the Peters donations. (Press release here: pdf.)

“Liddell said he suspected an investigation may reveal serious and complex fraud -– the bar he has to reach before being allowed to launch such an inquiry.

“I want to emphasise that it is entirely possible that there are innocent and honest explanations. The use of statutory power to require documents to be provided will enable the SFO to ascertain how funds were applied.”

Peters responded that he “will meet this investigation head on”, labelling the investigation “ridiculous”.

So, fasten your seatbelts folks, it looks like we are flying into a large pocket of political turbulence. Clark has decided to sleep on the matter, but it is difficult to see how she can avoid suspending her Foreign Minister. Who knows, she may already be readying Phil Goff to step in as acting minister and sounding out Peters’ reaction.

Would Peters try to bring down the government and precipitate an early election? He’d probably be on a hiding to nothing after the latest revelations. He knows the consequences. In any case, as noted below, the Maori Party could give the government their support for the ETS, the single remaining big ticket item. With Brian Connell’s abrupt resignation, things just got slightly easier for the government in terms of making up the numbers. I say, go for it Helen!

Update: Not sparing the opportunity to use a provocative metaphor, Chris Trotter sums up the role of the press in this whole affair:

“…this particular dog-fight is being stage-managed… A carefully orchestrated campaign of character assassination — the political equivalent of a gang-rape — in which members of the news media have become as deeply implicated in the planning, timing and execution of each assault as the politicians themselves…”

Yeah, this week’s events couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nats.They were fast losing control of their narrative, and the gap was closing