Peters admits to mansion visits, sides with Dotcom against Key - and claims govt could be spying on him
Kim Dotcom continues to wreck minor havoc on NZ politics.
Barely three weeks after Prime Minister John Key extended an MMP olive branch to potential coalition partner Winston Peters, their relationship seems to have gone to heck.
Mr Key has spent the past two days ribbing the NZ First leader, alleging secret visits to the giant German's rented mansion.
Mr Peters refused to confirm or deny the liaisons, saying it was a private issue.
This afternoon, Kim Dotcom tweeted, "Winston Peters didn't answer questions about his visit because we agreed on confidence. I released him from this confidence now."
The newly released Mr Peters duly told media he had met with Mr Dotcom three times over the past two years.
The first visit was to discuss Mr Dotcom's immigration issues, the next two to discuss the GCSB's spying on Mr Dotcom, which was ruled illegal due to his status as an NZ resident.
Mr Dotcom made the first approach, Mr Peters said.
The accused pirate has long-maintained that Mr Key knew about the January 20, 2012 raid on Dotcom mansion before it happened. Mr Key says he did not.
Today, Mr Peters said, "Kim Dotcom is telling the truth about that matter.''
Earlier, Green Party leader Russel Norman confirmed he met with Kim Dotcom on two occasions. Dr Norman tried to talk Mr Dotcom out of launching the Internet Party. Dr Norman argued the Greens already had the issue of internet freedom covered. Some pundits see the Internet Party being most likely to pull votes from Labour or the Greens, potentially denying the left wing bloc victory in a close election.
The Green co-leader has now watered down his February 10 comment about potentially blocking the extradition of Kim Dotcom, should he lose his extradition case (due to start July 31), while Labour leader David Cunliffe has backed right away, saying it its a judicial matter.
Former ACT and National Party leader Don Brash has also confirmed he met with Mr Dotcom. Dr Brash said the meetings were for general background discussion about the NZ political scene.
And Labour's Trevor Mallard says while he has not been to the mansion, Mr Dotcom "has come to our place."
For his part, Mr Dotcom has said he will "self destruct" the Internet Party if it does not each the 5% MMP threshold in polls by the time ballot papers are printed (which must be after nominations formally close, 20 to 27 days before the election). Currently, his party is polling at zero percent, with 1 in 5 people in a 3News-Reid Research poll saying they would consider voting for the Internet Party, but not a single one of 1000 responses actually choosing the party.
If the Internet Party does disband, M Dotcom says he will throw his weight behind another party? Who? Cue another round of visits to Dotcom mansion.
In a statement, Mr Peters said National Party sources obviously knew of the three meetings and this points to information being passed to and from the top floor of the Beehive.
“Does this mean that some New Zealand politicians are now under surveillance? Exactly when did the Prime Minister authorise someone to keep tabs on me?," he asked.
“New Zealanders should be outraged that a former Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Opposition party leader has apparently been spied on," he said.
Mr Dotcom built on this theory, tweeting, "Ask John Key how he knew about Winston Peters visiting the mansion 3 times. Only 4 people knew about it & probably Ian Fletcher at the GCSB."
Mr Key flatly denied the allegation.
The PM refused to say how he learned about Mr Peters' visits, however, leaving the door open for conspiracy theorists.
Surveillance apparatus could have been turned on Dotcom mansion. But there are also several lower-tech possibilities, including NZ First caucus leaks, Parliamentary staff or onlookers blabbing, or the PM reading Whaleoil.
Peters says no taxpayer money was spent on his visits to Mr Dotcom, and nothing was offered.
But ironically, Mr Dotcom would take away.
The 3News-Reid research poll found of the one in five considering a vote for the Internet Party, the largest block (30%) was NZ First supporters.