NZ First leader Winston Peters claims his party has been unfairly targeted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) as he told John Campbell during a Breakfast interview that he despised people saying he’d broken the law.
Yesterday, two people were charged following a SFO investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation.
The defendants were given interim name suppression after being charged with Obtaining by Deception in the NZ First Foundation electoral funding case.
“We note, however, that neither defendant is a Minister, sitting MP, or candidate in the upcoming election (or a member of their staff), or a current member of the New Zealand First party,” the SFO said in a statement.
In a heated 10-minute interview with Breakfast host John Campbell, Peters said the SFO had deliberately targeted his party.
“It’s unbelievable they should interpose right before this election this position when they’ve got the outstanding matter of Christchurch and Auckland mayoralties, the outstanding matter of the investigation into the Labour Party which they’ve started.”
Peters also alleged that they had numerous documents about the connection between the National Party and offshore interests.
“We’re driven to the conclusion that there are inconsistencies where we (NZ First) are concerned, whereas with the Labour Party and National Party it’s not a matter of urgency.”
Peters was then pressed by Campbell about the 19 political donations between 2017 and 2019 to the NZ First Foundation over the value of $14,000, 12 of which were a single cent below the $15000 declaration threshold under the Electoral Act.
“Is it illegal to do that?” Peters repeatedly asked in response to one of the questions.
“Mr Campbell please, we’re getting close to the election, if this complies with the law then please don’t make it by insinuation that it doesn’t comply with the law.”
That response prompted this exchange:
Campbell: "I was at the NZ First launch, I was there, I followed your career for a quarter of a century and you have been about transparency, about openness, about being the whistle blower, about going over other people’s behaviour, about holding people to account.”
Peters: "Are you okay?"
Campbell: "You’re now sitting next to me as the Deputy Prime Minister of NZ saying 'is this illegal?' Is that the bar for you now?"
Peters: "This is extraordinary, Mr Campbell you’re notorious for this, you’ve built this big enraged pitch. Let me tell you see, that’s what the electoral law says is legal, that it doesn’t have to be declared if it’s not above $15,000. Now you’re throwing it at me like it’s some sort of crime.”
Peters: "Do you tell Labour that, do you tell National, the Greens, and ACT that? Oh no, just one guy. You have to admit I’ve got you, there haven’t I?”
Peters continued his claims that NZ First were being singled out before asserting that he had always been law abiding, both as a politician and lawyer.
“Every other party has a no disclosure allowance, why are we being singled out?”
“I’ve been around for 27 years as leader of this party, and I’ve been for decades sworn to the bar as a person to comply with the law of this country and I despise it when people say I would break the law.”
“I’ve spent my whole life as a lawyer and as politician obeying the law and being transparent, required by the law to be transparent and that’s what I have done.”
Peters then went on to say he had no idea about the donations to the NZ First Foundation.
“Mr Campbell I’ve been flat out travelling around the world more extensively cause I’m the Foreign Minister than any other minister and you expect me to know those sorts of details, of course I wouldn’t know them, I’ll telling you straight up now, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Peters said.
“I’m going to court, I’m not going to have a jackboot outfit (SFO) behave like this when it doesn’t do this for the other parties, just NZ First.”