Labour failed to declare $150,000 from Liu — Police should investigate

David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.

So Labour, which was campaigning on financial transparency in 2007, took $150,000 from Mr Liu (after going against official advice to give him residency) and never ever disclosed that he was a donor.  This shows how deeply hypocritical they are, let alone the strong possibility they broke the law with their 2007 donation return.

Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.

I’ve previously said the Police should investigate. The investigation should not just be under the Electoral Act. There may be theft involved. If Liu was donating to Labour, and Labour say they have no record of the donation, then what happened to the money? Did it go directly to any MPs?

If Labour had a shred of integrity, they would not wait for a Police investigation. They should ask Mr Liu directly who he gave the money to, and in what form was it.

“This is scandalous from the public’s perspective. There has to be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police one or a parliamentary one,” said political commentator Bryce Edwards. “There must be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police or parliamentary.”

Asked about a potential investigation under electoral finance laws, Liu’s lawyer Todd Simmonds indicated that Liu was comfortable with his financial support and would cooperate with any inquiry.

This is why I believe we should have an Independent Commission against Corruption – a body which can investigate issues like that – even if there are no prosecutions – we need to have someone with the ability to find out what happened.

Liu’s signed statement was dated May 3, two days after Williamson’s resignation. It said:

• Liu paid “close to $100,000″ for wine at a 2007 Labour Party fundraiser;

• That he spent $50-60,000 hosting then-labour minister Rick Barker on a cruise on the Yangtze River in China in 2007; and

This is a huge issue for Rick Barker. He was required by Parliament’s Standing Orders to disclose any gift of over $500 in value.

That Liu visited Barker in Hawke’s Bay in 2006, having dinner with him at an exclusive lodge and then meeting for breakfast the next morning. Liu said he made a donation to Hawke’s Bay Rowing, which Barker was associated with.

Yet Barker claims to barely know him.

Barker previously told the Herald that he could barely remember having dinner.

I like Rick Barker, but he has some serious questions to answers. I presume the Parliamentary Privileges Committee can investigate the adequacy of his pecuniary interests return.

Edwards said while it was not clear if Labour had broken any laws, public confidence in the party had been dented.

He said a private prosecution could be possible, and it was the responsibility of the electoral commission to investigate and to decide whether a referral to police should be made.

They may not be able to prosecute, but they could insist the returns are corrected if necessary (as they did with NZ First).

Edwards said the case highlighted the need for a regulatory body separate from the Electoral Commission “to look at questions of corruption and irregularities” around . Donations made at fundraising auctions or dinners are not recorded individually, but the total amount raised is declared.

That may be correct for Labour, but I’m certain that is not current practice for National. Anyone who donates over the disclosure limit is disclosed.

So what do we now know about Labour and this Liu.

  1. Chris Carter and David Cunliffe wrote letters on his behalf to immigration officials, despite him not being a constituent of either MP
  2. Damien O’Connor granted him residency against official advice
  3. He gave a donation to a club Rick Barker was involved in, and spent $50,000 or so on entertaining Barker in China
  4. He donated $150,000 or so to Labour, yet they have never ever disclosed he was a donor

The entire reason we have disclosure laws is so the media can scrutinise significant donations, and the public can form views on the appropriateness of the donations. Labour’s credibility on issues of electoral finance is now zero.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

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