Donations from the Labor Party: six defendants were removed by interim

The six people facing Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charges over a donation to the Labor Party will keep their names under wraps – for now.

Auckland District Court.
Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

They were charged by the agency earlier this month following an investigation launched last year.

The defendants appeared this morning before Judge Brooke Gibson in Auckland District Court, their first appearance, where a large contingent of media was present.

The six are accused of trying to cover up the true identity of the donor who donated at least $ 34,840 to the Labor Party in 2017.

Each defendant faces two counts of obtaining the donation “by deception”.

Documents previously released by the Auckland High Court alleged that the group had adopted a “fraudulent device, trick or scheme” to conceal the total amount of the donation and the identity of the donor.

The OFS claimed the donation was paid through an intermediary account before being paid and kept by Labor.

He also claimed that the defendants provided five names to “create the illusion” of five separate donations, each below the $ 15,000 disclosure limit.

As a result, the group allowed the real donor “to free himself from public scrutiny,” the OFS said.

The OFS has already confirmed that none of the people are sitting MPs, or current or former Labor officials.

Judge Gibson granted all defendants the provisional name deletion at today’s hearing.

The defendants will then appear in Auckland District Court on June 14.

When the defendants were indicted earlier this month, Labor Party General Secretary Rob Salmond said in a statement that the party “had complied with the law”.

The party did not ask for any removal orders, he said.

Former MP Jami-Lee Ross and three businessmen are scheduled to appear in High Court in September for donations to the National Party.

They were charged in January 2020 with obtaining by deception. They all pleaded not guilty on February 25.

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

The individuals – who have temporary name suppression – are expected to be tried in June next year. They are accused of having obtained by deception in relation to $ 700,000 in donations made to the Foundation between 2015 and 2020.

The OFS is also considering whether to investigate donations to the Maori party last year after being dismissed from the case by police.

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