13 May 2021

SFO files criminal charges against six people in Labour Party donations case

6:13 pm on 13 May 2021

The six people charged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over a donation made to the Labour Party are accused of trying to conceal the true identity of the donor.

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Serious Fraud Office director Julie Read. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

The details are included in court documents released to media by the Auckland District Court this afternoon.

The SFO filed the charges yesterday following an investigation launched last year.

As already confirmed by the SFO, none of the individuals are sitting MPs, or current or former Labour officials.

Each of the defendants is charged with two counts of obtaining "by deception" a donation of at least $34,840 near the end of March 2017.

The documents alleged the group adopted a "fraudulent device, trick or stratagem" so as to conceal the full amount of the donation and identity of the donor.

The SFO claimed the donation was paid via an intermediary account before being paid to, and retained by, Labour.

It claimed the accused group provided five names to "create the illusion" of five separate donations, each below the disclosure limit of $15,000.

The agency said, as a result, the group allowed the true donor "freedom from any public scrutiny".

The individuals are due to appear in the Auckland District Court on 24 May.

In a statement to media, Labour general secretary Rob Salmond said: "The Labour Party has complied with the law."

He said the party had not sought any suppression orders.

"As the matter is before the Courts, we won't be making any further comment," Salmond said.

Other parties being investigated by the SFO

The case is the third SFO prosecution related to political party donations in recent time.

A trial related to donations to the National Party is scheduled to begin at the High Court in Auckland in September.

Former MP Jami-Lee Ross and three businessmen were charged in January 2020 year with obtaining by deception. They all pleaded not guilty on 25 February.

The SFO also laid charges against two people in September last year regarding the handling of donations to the New Zealand First Foundation.

The individuals - who have interim name suppression - are expected to stand trial in June next year. They are accused of obtaining by deception in relation to $700,000 in donations made to the Foundation between 2015 and 2020.

The agency is also considering whether to investigate donations to the Māori Party last year after being referred the matter by the police.

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