24 Feb 2022

Labour Party donations case: Suppression lapses for three defendants

5:03 pm on 24 February 2022

Three of the people accused of electoral fraud in relation to the Labour Party are also defending charges in relation to the National Party.

(from left) Zhang Yikun, Zheng Shijia, and Zheng Hengjia

(from left) Zhang Yikun, Zheng Shijia, and Zheng Hengjia Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

They can now be named as Yikun Zhang, Shija 'Colin' Zheng and Hengjia 'Joe' Zheng who are also accused of electoral fraud in relation to donations made to National.

The Serious Fraud Office alleges they - along with three other people - concealed the true identity of the donor who paid at least $34,840 to the Labour Party in 2017.

In the case before the High Court in Auckland, they are accused of breaking up the donation into smaller amounts to create the illusion of five separate donations below the $15,000 disclosure limit.

The trio have already been named in relation to two $100,000 donations paid to National in 2017 and 2018, alongside former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross.

Name suppression lapsed for Yikun Zhang, Colin Zheng and Joe Zheng in relation to the Labour Party case today while the identities of three other defendants remain secret.

The two cases - involving donations to both Labour and National - are being heard together in a 10-week trial in Auckland starting on 25 July. The defendants in both cases deny all charges.

Yikun Zhang issues statement

In a press release sent out by Yikun Zhang's legal team this morning, Zhang said he had been caught up in a "misguided prosecution" over "entirely innocent actions" in relation to the Labour Party case.

It explained that he bought five paintings from the Labour Party for $60,000 in March 2017, most of which came from an independent art gallery in Ōhope.

"All of the paintings are on display in Yikun Zhang's home."

Zhang then purchased an antique imperial robe and two other works of art at a Labour Party auction event in September 2017, it said, and donated the robe to his hometown museum in Guangdong Province, China.

"Following his successful public bid, Mr Zhang paid the Labour Party $100,000."

Zhang is in China, after getting permission to travel in December to say goodbye to his dying mother.

"Sadly, as a result of the SFO's repeated refusal to consent to Mr Zhang's travel, he did not get to China in time to see his mother before she died," his legal team said.