Two people who face charges following the Office of Serious Fraud’s investigation of the New Zealand First Foundation will temporarily hide their names.
The verdict ordered from Judge Winter is released tonight.
The pair, neither of whom are ministers, current lawmakers or party candidates, have been accused of depositing more than $ 740,000 into the foundation’s accounts.
They appeared in court yesterday where Robert Stewart, on behalf of Herald NZME publisher Stuff and RNZ, challenged a crackdown order surrounding the case.
The judge has kept his decision till today.
The suppression of names was originally given until they appeared again in court on October 29, but the media filed to challenge the order out of public interest in light of the October 17 election.
Charges of obtaining through fraud were charged against both of them on September 23.
In making his decision, Judge Winter said that the release of one of the defendants’ names “may at this point inform potential voters for the New Zealand First Party who have not cast their ballot”.
“Those who have done it [voted], then will be stripped of the names of the two accused persons and the media comments that would be associated with them.
Judge Winter said the publication of one of the defendants’ names “at this stage of at least six days into the follow-up voting period, could unfairly bother those who have cast their vote as much as it informs those who have not”.
The identification of one of the defendants can then easily identify the other defendant, Judge Winter said.
However, Winter said the SFO had been careful in notifying the New Zealand public of the allegations “before the start of the initial voting period”.
It happened via press release.
Judge Winter also said he was satisfied the threshold for extreme hardship caused by one of the defendants and those connected to the person would have been met if the names were released.
In particular, it reflects the media scrutiny that will fall on the defendants because of the general election.
“At this time when there will be an intense media focus on his name and his connection to the elections will mean so [the person] may be unfairly slandered in the minds of the prospective jurors when [the person] finally on trial. “
One of the defendants confirmed in their submission that they would choose to have their case decided by a jury.
They argue that “the nature of this type of accusation of dishonesty is very damaging … on both personal and professional grounds.”
The defendants argued that they might be tried by the public and that it would affect their business dealings.
In February, the Election Commission said it believed the foundation “had received a donation that should have been treated as a party donation to New Zealand’s First Party”. The matter was referred to the police, and then the SFO.
Filing documents obtained by the Herald yesterday accused the two of depositing $ 746,881 in two bank accounts, including an account belonging to the New Zealand First Foundation between September 30, 2015 and February 14 this year.
The documents claim that the money was deposited with “the intention of defrauding the money donors, the party secretaries of the New Zealand First Party and / or the Electoral Commission”.
“The defendant used a fraudulent device, trick, or trick, in which the party’s contribution to the party was paid into a bank account [suppressed] and the New Zealand First Foundation and was not notified to the party secretary, or announced by the party secretary to the Electoral Commission, “the document alleges.
“Thus, the undeclared funds are available for [suppressed]/ New Zealand First Foundation to be used as desired by the defendants, and to be used to pay party fees and to develop a fundraising database for party and party interests. [suppressed]. “
New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters questions the timing of the SFO’s decision to file the charges, which come a day before overseas voting begins and days before further voting begins.
The difference that the party was “completely separate” from the foundation would disappear on some sides, he said.
The foundation’s activities have been in the spotlight this year, whether it has been to lend or give money to the party for purposes that benefit the party and its MPs, and if so, whether it has been properly declared.
The party returns show that the registered foundation made loans of $ 73,000 to NZ First for 2017, $ 76,622 for 2018 and $ 44,923 for 2019.
RNZ reports that the foundation raised more than $ 500,000 in donations from April 2017 to March 2019.
During that period, the foundation reportedly spent more than $ 425,000 on campaign advertising costs, political consultancy fees, hiring and setting up campaign headquarters in Wellington, and running the party’s website.
This follows the resignation of party president Lester Gray last year after he refused to sign the party’s 2019 financial documents.
“This type of operation is incompatible with my moral values and business practices, and therefore I can’t support the party much longer,” Gray told Stuff at the time.