The pair charged after the Serious Fraud Office's investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation are accused of using a "fraudulent device, trick or stratagem" to secure more than $700,000 then used to pay expenses for the New Zealand First party.
Two people have been charged with obtaining by deception after the SFO's investigation into the foundation and its handling of donations.
Neither person can be identified but the SFO has confirmed they are not ministers, sitting MPs, candidates, staffers or current members of New Zealand First.
What happened today
RNZ, Stuff, NZME and TVNZ brought one of the defendants to court today to challenge an interim suppression order protecting their identity.
The defendant, SFO, journalists and media lawyer Robert Stewart convened before Judge Peter Winter in the Waitākere District Court this morning.
Stewart told the court there was compelling public interest in knowing the identity of the person linked to the New Zealand First Foundation given the election was just around the corner.
"If the public interest in this case doesn't outweigh the question of hardship to the defendant in this case, when will it?
"It's difficult to see a more favourable or strong case in this instance, given the circumstances we find ourselves in with the election some eight or nine days away."
Stewart submitted voters had a right to be fully informed before heading to the polls on 17 October and the existing interim suppression order preventing the media from identifying the defendant "effectively stymied" this right.
The defendant's lawyer disagreed, submitting identification would not have a major impact on the election results but rather promoted a "trial by mob" in the case.
They told the court name suppression should be dealt with at the first call of the case, scheduled for 29 October at the North Shore District Court.
Acting for the media, Stewart responded by reiterating the public had a right to know who the defendants were before the election.
"We are here as surrogates of the public. We want the voting public to New Zealand to have as much information as they can, as the courts will permit, before they exercise their right to vote."
Judge Winter reserved his decision.
Charging documents released
Charging documents released to RNZ today show the two defendants used more than $700,000 in a "fraudulent device, trick or stratagem" to pay expenses for the New Zealand First party.
They say the pair used deception to obtain control over $677,885 deposited into the bank account of the New Zealand First Foundation account between 21 April 2017 and 14 February 2020.
The defendants are also charged with using $68,996 deposited into a bank account of a company run by one of the defendants between 31 October 2015 and 20 October 2017.
"Those undeclared funds thereby become available to [a company run by one of the defendants]/New Zealand First Foundation to use as the defendants saw fit, and were used to pay expenses of the party and to develop a fundraising database for the benefit of the party and [a company run by one of the defendants]."
New Zealand First tried to gag SFO
The New Zealand First party took the SFO to the High Court last month seeking to suppress the announcement of the charges and the existence of their court action until after a new government has been formed.
The court ruled against the party, saying there was "a significant public interest in the New Zealand voting public being informed during an election campaign about criminal charges of serious fraud against people or organisations related to political parties".
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has said his party has been completely exonerated by the investigation and stressed the foundation and party are entirely separate entities.
He has claimed the SFO is biased against his party but a court judgment noted the SFO denies this and has said it's an independent and neutral agency.