Just two hours after TV3 revealed that Melissa Lee had stolen $100,000 from NZ on Air, Lee announced she will pay the money back. Just a few hours earlier she had been insisting it was her money, just a confusion over accounting. Her tune has only changed because TV3’s story exposed that cover story as the lie it is.
Let’s be clear. Lee would not have paid this money back if she hadn’t been caught. She is only acting now try to minimise the political damage.
It’s the Double Dipton school of rorting – take all you can, if you get caught pay it back, pretend it was all some silly mistake (not yours), get fake angry at anyone who suggests that maybe you ought to be punished for stealing from the people of New Zealand. But giving back what you stole does not absolve you of your wrongs.
Actually, the fact that Lee has been able to decide so quickly that she ought to pay the money back shows that she has known for some time that it was not rightfully hers. The line about an “innocent error” over accounting was just a lie, a last ditch attempt to keep the money she stole. If it were just an “innocent error” it wouldn’t have taken the TV3 article to make her pay back the money.
This issue won’t go away. The onus is now on Lee to prove she hasn’t stolen any more NZ on Air money. Jonathan Coleman has to explain how he handled the conflict of interest as Lee’s campaign manager while he knew she was under investigation.
Why did Lee and Coleman think it was OK to cover-up this issue when Lee clearly knew she had no right to the money? John Key is going to have to hold both of them to account. And there are questions about what he knew of this seedy business too.