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The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has charged two defendants from the New Zealand First Foundation donations scandal.
Charges were of ‘obtaining by deception' were put forward to the two who have name suppression. The two defendants cannot be named or identified at this current time.
Neither of the two defendants is a Minister, sitting MP, a candidate in the upcoming General Election for 2020 or a member of staff.
The New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters says in a press briefing today that the decision made by the SFO ‘exonerates' the New Zealand First Party of any potential law breaches. The SFO thoroughly investigated the party and all of its ministers and all current sitting members including staff and the candidates standing for the General Election 2020.
Peters says that no party member has been either implicated or charged by the SFO from the recent Nation Party donation scandal.
The timing of the announcement made by the SFO was ‘dismay' — “the timing of its decision to lay charges against the Foundation constitutes a James Comey-level error of judgement,” said Peters.
“It's an appalling intrusion in a period when the people begin to think seriously about the shape of their next government. It has been amply demonstrated that FBI Director Comey's groundless findings impacted on Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. Allegations were made about me in 2008 which the SFO found to be baseless.”
The shock, Peters knows the SFO cannot justify the timing of its decision but still respects its independence.
“The Foundation is an entirely separate entity from the New Zealand First Party but that distinction will be lost on some, and deliberately confused by others. The way in which this investigation has been conducted raises serious questions about the conduct of the Serious Fraud Office,” said Mr Peters.
“In my opinion, the SFO has acted unreasonably and without justification both in the way in which the investigation has been conducted and in public announcements the SFO has chosen to make about the investigation in breach of the Serious Fraud Office's own written policy of not commenting on investigations until the first appearance of any accused facing charges,” stated Mr Peters.
“As a result, the New Zealand First Party has instructed its lawyers to issue proceedings in the High Court against the Serious Fraud Office seeking declarations that the Serious Fraud Office has amounted to an abuse of its statutory powers and has been unreasonable.”
The judgement was ‘poor' as the investigation of foreign money that's flowing into the National Party is still incomplete.
“We know they were provided significantly more serious information about the pernicious foreign influence campaign that penetrated the National Party. Yet only a portion of those electoral breaches resulted in charges. Why?,” said Mr Peters.
Before the election even happens Peters says that the findings and investigation of the mayoral electoral funding in both Christchurch and Auckland for Labour are nowhere to be seen including the donations made to Labour in 2017.
“How is that fair? It is not,” said Mr Peters.
“Voters will judge for themselves the fairness of the SFO's actions.
“Notwithstanding today's exoneration by the SFO, taxpayer-funded and other journalists, those who have spilled litres of ink in trying to destroy New Zealand First, must now confront the truth that not one Minister, MP, or party member has been anything other than fully exonerated.”
Peters believes that Journalists are attempting to ‘smear' him and his New Zealand First Party, which is separate from the Foundation.
“Neither I nor any other party is allowed to make any further comment on this matter because it is now sub-judice,” said Mr Peters.
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