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SFO: The National Party Four are Named

Written By: - Date published: 3:20 pm, February 19th, 2020 - 107 comments
Categories: bill english, Dirty Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges - Tags: , , ,

Name suppression has been lifted for the four people charged by the Serious Fraud Office over two dodgy donations to the National Party.

Three are businessmen: Yikun Zhang, 48, Shijia (Colin) Zheng, 34, and Hengjia (Joe) Zheng, 34. The fourth is National Party bag man Jami-Lee Ross.

All four deny any wrongdoing, though the SFO case is that two donations of $100,000 in 2017 and $100,050 in 2018 were made “in circumstances where the identity of the donor was not disclosed in the National Party’s Annual Return of Party Donations”.

“The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem whereby the 2018 donation was split into sums of money less than $15,000, and transferred into the bank accounts of eight people, before being paid to, and retained by, the National Party,” the SFO documents read.

The same allegation is made by the SFO about the 2017 cash, which has only just come to light in recent days. The National Party was led by Bill English at the time and current leader Simon Bridges says he knew nothing about that donation.

Jami-Lee Ross said this afternoon that the charges are “outrageous”, while he has become a victim of ‘dirty politics’.

Ross told the Herald: “I always wanted to make it very clear that as the whistleblower on this deception, it was outrageous that I was then charged and that others were seeking to implicate me, making me their expendable scape goat.”

Ross said his decision to go to the police – sparking the SFO investigation and subsequent charges against him – was “not just because I had been the victim of broken promises made to me by Mr Bridges”.

Ross says that, instead, there was an issue which needed to be “openly and honestly addressed for the benefit of the country”.

I was the whistle blower, and as a result, ever since I have been attacked by the Party and its supporters for bringing this matter to the attention of the nation.

“Some seek to make me out as the bad guy. While that may be convenient spin for the party, I will not be the National Party’s fall guy,” Ross said.

Jami-Lee Ross has claimed new National Party leader Simon Bridges had asked him to collect a $100,000 donation from philanthropist and businessman Yikun Zhang, which was then split into smaller amounts to hide it.

107 comments on “SFO: The National Party Four are Named”

  1. Chris T 1

    So which ones are in the National Party again?

    • observer 1.1

      This was well covered in the media.

      More than a member. An aspiring National candidate.

    • While I can see why you might assume they are, Chris, the post does not make that claim. You don't actually have to be a fee paying member to be associated with an organisation.

      Now, do you have anything to add of value? If not, thanks for playing and better luck next time.

      • Chris T 1.2.1

        Title of article

        "The National Party Four are Named"

        • te reo putake 1.2.1.1

          As I have already written, they don't have to be paid up members of the National Party to be associated with the National Party. And the closeness of the association in this case can be counted in dollar bills. Hundreds of thousands of them, apparently.

          • Chris T 1.2.1.1.1

            Fair call then

            So we can say Yikun Zhang who got given a MNZM in 2018 is associated with National

            • te reo putake 1.2.1.1.1.1

              Yes, yes you can.

              To clarify for other readers, Chris is trying to say that because Zhang received a Queens Birthday honour in 2018 (when Labour were in power) this means he is associated with Labour too. That's fundamentally wrong and misunderstands the honours system, and also ignores the specific reason for the honour, which was Zhang's work to improve relations between NZ and China. Work obviously undertaken in the years when National were in power.

              However, to save time, I'll happily point out that Zhang has also sought to ingratiate himself with Labour (and other parties) and there are photos of him with Labour MP's, including the current PM. The bloke clearly liked the concept of having a bob each way, but equally clearly, it his association with the National Party that has led to the SFO charges.

              Now, Chris, can you move on from petty diversions and failed pedantry to address the substance of the post and the situation National finds itself in, by association? I wait, giddy with anticipation.

              • Chris T

                "Now, Chris, can you move on from petty diversions and failed pedantry to address the substance of the post and the situation National finds itself in, by association? I wait, giddy with anticipation."

                Fair call on the rest of your post.

                But National doesn't find itself in anything apart from rumours and innuendo.

                They aren't being investigated by the SFO like NZF

                • NZ First is not being investigated by the SFO. Do keep up.

                  • Chris T

                    Apologies

                    The NZ First Foundation

                    • Correct. An organisation associated with NZ First. I sure you get where I'm going with this, Chris. Like it or not, what links the four charged men is their association with National.

                      And that is how the voters will likely see it. I can't see how this court case can win votes for National as it plays out over the next few months. Rather, there is the real possibility that there is more bad news to come for the Nats as the evidence is presented.

                    • Chris T

                      Of course it won't win votes for National.

                      But she is hardly the end of the world.

                      It is almost belt way

                      The difference between NZF and the Nats is NZF were already looking screwed without theirs

                • David

                  They aren’t being investigated by the SFO like NZF.

                  Hit. Nail. Head.

                  Now it’s only NZF and it’s COL partners that have the explaining to do.

    • Rapunzel 1.3

      Taking part in National’s candidate college is kind of right in there especially if candidacy is your goal it has to be said

      Zheng Shijia, also known as Colin Zheng, is a business partner of Zhang Yikun, a trustee of the Chao San organisation, and has taken part in National’s candidate college. He was made a justice of the peace in 2017.
      https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2020/02/19/1041741/jami-lee-ross-one-of-4-charged-by-sfo

  2. "I will not be the National Party’s fall guy."

    This could get very messy for the National Party! Fingers crossed.

    • Muttonbird 2.1

      Amazing that the Nats and their followers ignore that Jami Lee Ross was a high valued National MP at the time of the offending.

      It proves the offending was driven by his position and role within the National Party.

      Mud sticks.

      • Gosman 2.1.1

        The SFO obviously disagrees at this time

      • Enough is Enough 2.1.2

        Do you think just maybe his offending was intended to bring down the Party?

        Hence doing the deed, then recording a conversation with the leader he wanted to bring down.

        Why else did he record the conversation?

  3. riffer 3

    Messy for the Nats, but, ultimately, not really for Bridges, other than he was the leader of a party that had some dodgy stuff happening. He's far enough away from the mess that he won't be seen by the public to be at fault. JLR is screwed, though. I've re-read the transcripts multiple times, and he's trying hard to get SB to implicate himself, but just can't do it. Bridges ain't that stupid to say that on the phone. It's not a good look for the National party, but party ain't the politicians, unfortunately.

    • Chris T 3.1

      Pretty much agree with this.

      There were probably Nat people knee deep in these 2 donations, but they aren't stupid.

      I doubt we will find the same with NZF

      • Rapunzel 3.1.1

        Boy what a short memory you've got "So which ones are in the National Party again?" I take it's OK if you say it?

        • Paul Campbell 3.1.1.1

          You're asking the wrong question, should be: "which ones were National Party members at the time?"

          Simon is on tape admitting that he'd been to dinner at the donor's home, and was going to invite him over to his and had arranged a quid pro quo for the donation – one of the donors would become a National MP (pretty sure to be a National MP you have to be a member), then he had a rather racist conversation about who to boot out to make room.

        • Rapunzel 3.1.1.2

          It wasn't my question it was someone called Chris T's question, right at the top put in a rather querulous way, who then goes on to describe some of them as "probably being knee deep"

    • Robert Guyton 3.2

      " Bridges ain't that stupid to say that on the phone"

      You mean he cunningly avoided being overt and/or honest.

      • Bazza64 3.2.1

        I think I remember when Jamie Lee Ross played that phone call back to the media. He asked Simon re the donations & how he wanted them treated & Simon carefully put it back onto Jamie & said it was up to him.

        So you could say Simon was cunning, but on the evidence JLR will take the fall for this unless anything else surfaces.

        • Robert Guyton 3.2.1.1

          The Leader of the National Party would surely have boomed, "You'll do no such thing on my watch, Mr Ross!", yet my memory reveals no such reaction from Mr Bridges!

          • Bazza64 3.2.1.1.1

            The thing is JLR just asked him how he wanted it treated, he didn't say "do I split it like we have always done" Simon responded – well how ever you want to do it, so left it up to JLR's decision & he will carry the can for that.

    • Chris T 4.1

      Nice piece of whining from him, but I think given the current evidence the dude is screwed.

      Doubt he will get 7 years though.

      Maybe 2 or 3 hanging out at home.

  4. cricklewood 5

    Reading this i'm thinking there is a strategic opportunity for a Lab Green govt,

    This court case is going to be a mess for the Nats and if the SFO lay charges against people in NZ First (or if there is enough smoke) Labour should cut them loose as a coalition partner / option.

    A scandal drags the Nats vote down a few points NZFirst loses enough to drop below five and conditions are ready made for an electorate accomodation to ensure the Greens are in parliament.

    Insurance would be getting the Maori Party back in as despite working with National their more natural home is towards the left.

    Worst case a Lab Green MP govt which would be far better than the current coalition.

    • McFlock 5.1

      Timing when/if to cut NZ1 loose would be a delicate issue – NZ1 can be returned either way, and Labour knows not to shit on its friends when it looks like they're dying. It would have to be a clear line, like charges being laid against NZ1 officials or even Peters himself, and then it could be framed as "standing down until resolved" like in [2008?].

      Similarly, keep opposing Māori Party candidates, but not to the point where they would go with the nats again just out of spite.

      labgrnMP might be good, might be shite depending on what MP priorities are again.

      But popcorn over the next few months, between the nats and NZ1.

  5. ianmac 6

    Seems to indicate that they were told how to donate. Herald:

    "And those others charged said,""Our clients are proud New Zealanders and philanthropists. They were urged to follow a process and are now deeply disappointed at being caught up in a donation's fiasco." ????

    • Robert Guyton 6.1

      They will have been "urged" but what reason did they accept for following that process? I expect they are intelligent men. They wouldn't hand over money, following a prescribed, and rather odd, process, without thinking about the details, I'm certain.

    • Gosman 6.2

      They were urged it seems by the only person with a direct connection to the National party who no longer is a member of that party.

      • Robert Guyton 6.2.1

        And his "urging" was the result of an idea that posed into his head one day – "I know," thought Jamie Lee, as the result of no precedent at all, nor advice from anyone else, "I'll urge the donors to split up their money, just coz!"

        (Imaginary scenario)

        "I will not be the National Party's fall guy," Ross said."

        (Real world development)

        • Bazza64 6.2.1.1

          Robert, you are spot on with this, but in the end in court it will come down to actual evidence & most likely JLR will go for a skate.

      • Gossie, JLR was associated with only one donation, as far as I know. Who was the bag man for the other bung? I'm not saying Bill English knows, but I do think he should be asked.

        • Gosman 6.2.2.1

          Surely the SFO has investigated this possibility. Unless you think they haven't done their job properly on this one.

          • te reo putake 6.2.2.1.1

            Well, we haven't heard the evidence yet, nor the arguments from the defendants. Who knows what's going to come out? Maybe nothing that leads to further charges, but certainly nothing positive for National.

            The best they can hope for is that it doesn't get worse.

            • Gosman 6.2.2.1.1.1

              If JLR wanted to spill the beans his best bet would be to cooperate fully with the SFO and give them details of people within National who were orchestrating the whole thing. The fact it looks like this isn't the case suggests to me that JLR does not have this detail.

              • Robert Guyton

                You reckon National's Chief Whip would "not have the detail"?

                Really?

                He seems to be Jonny-on-the-spot in many of those photos with donors and key figures from the Party – perhaps he wasn't paying attention? Is that it, Gosman?

                • Gosman

                  The only reason I can see for JLR holding back from revealing all to the SFO in the hop of getting a lighter sentence is that he thinks he can get off the charge. In that case there is no incentive for him to release any incriminating evidence of other National party members being involved. However from what we've seen of him to date I strongly suspect he would have jumped at the chance to bring down other National party people especially if it gave him a chance to save his skin.

                  • jeremyB

                    "I will not be the National Party's fall guy," Ross said."

                    That statement suggests he started collecting evidence long before he went to the police.

                    I think he is waiting for the trial to spill all, under oath.

              • veutoviper

                Just because the SFO has only filed charges against four people so far, does not mean that they cannot file charges against other people as further evidence etc comes out through the court process in relation to the four people already charged.

                As we now know there were (at least) two major donations of c $100K in 2017 and 2018. As te reo putake says, it appears that JLR was associated with one of these donations but it is not clear whether he was the bag man for the other donation or who was. SFO may well know a lot more than has come out publicly to date, but as yet have insufficient evidence to lay further charges. From personal experience, SFO play their cards very close to their chest – much more so than NZ Police. They have a different legal approach and mindset IMO and experience. Time will tell what else comes out and who else may have been involved or implicated as the court procedure plays out

                • Gosman

                  It is in JLR interest to let the SFO know the exact details of the arrangement and dob any National party people in. The fact he hasn't done so yet suggests there is less information to come out than you think.

    • Anne 6.3

      Seems to indicate that they were told how to donate.

      Of course they were, and its being going on for f*****g decades. Excuse my language, but I've seen this type of situation first hand. I am sick and tired of the authorities in this country playing blind and deaf about things that have gone on in the past… as well as the present. Yes, I've had personal experiences.

      While there is a case for using the old cliche… lie down with dogs and you will catch fleas, I have the sense Jamie Lee Ross has turned over a new leaf and wants to tell the truth. He will be denied the opportunity if the authorities get their way. That is how they succeed in making an individual the scapegoat while the real crims – often politicians and/or their lackeys – get off scot free.

  6. Gosman 7

    How is this going to be a major problem for National? They can quite legitimately state no actual current employee or person acting on behalf of the National party has been charged with anything and that the person who was a key National party person at the time but has subsequently left the p[arty under a cloud is the main cause of the issue hence why he has been charged. At most this might cause them a little bit of bad publicity for a short while but it is hardly a major scandal for them.

    • observer 7.1

      By that logic, Philip Field wasn't a problem for Labour (because they expelled him) and Owen Glenn wasn't a problem for NZF (because he wasn't a member).

      In fact they were two huge problems and major factors in the 2008 election.

      "Nowt to do with us" doesn't work. The voters aren't lawyers looking for loopholes.

      • Gosman 7.1.1

        Owen Glenn WAS a problem for NZ First because Winston Peters denied ever meeting with him and discussing donations. It was Peters actions under scrutiny not Glenn's

    • Adrian 7.2

      Because $100k came directly from Beijing. Already stated this morning.

    • How is this going to be a major problem for National?

      How? Well, at the time of the criminal fraud, Ross was the party's chief whip and was acting on behalf of the party, and the other defendants were donating to the party in exchange for one of them receiving a place on the party's list. Which all makes the party's attempts to pretend this is nothing to do with them a thing of comedy value only.

  7. Robert Guyton 8

    "How is this going to be a major problem for National"

    Coz Jamie-Lee's spilling the beans, that's how.

    • Gosman 8.1

      He's been spilling the beans for over a year now. Why would he have additional information that he was keeping back till now?

      • veutoviper 8.1.1

        Because he is no fool and has no doubt had a lot of legal advice in the interim.

        If I was a betting person, I would put money on JLR having a great deal more in his back pocket – eg lots more tapes and probably also papers. JLR has already demonstrated that he was thinking ahead in taping the telephone calls etc that he has already released, and he was the one who went to the NZ Police in the first instance,

        I am also pretty sure that he would have known, or been advised by his lawyer(s), that there would be a risk of him possibly being charged. The fact that he has been charged actually allows him to provide more information, tapes etc in his own defence; and possibly (even probably?) as a willing witness etc for the prosecution.

        Time for someone to up the importation of popcorn for the next 8+ months.

        • Gosman 8.1.1.1

          The phone call that was an anti-climatic damp squib do you mean? That phone call incriminated JLR not Bridge's

          • Robert Guyton 8.1.1.1.1

            I'm still wondering why, in that phone call, Bridges "allowed" Ross to make suggestions about how to deal with the donations, yet didn't say, "Hold on old chap; that's not how we do things in the National Party; wash your mouth out with soap!"

            In fact, Bridges, by failing to direct his Chief Whip towards the honest, ethical path, condoned Ross' plans.

        • My fear is that JLR will be got at by big-wigs in the Natz. You know, offered one or two lucrative but nominal positions on major company boards for his silence and taking the rap.

          What's a couple of months home detention compared to an assured gravy train for life?

          It all depends how honest JLR is. Yes, I know he belongs to the Natz so by definition a bit dodgy, but how much does he care about democracy in this country.

        • SHG 8.1.1.3

          Because he is no fool

          in spite of all evidence to the contrary?

    • Puckish Rogue 8.2

      Maybe but Ross is also quite "damaged goods" at the moment so a lot of what he'll say, unless backed up by evidence, will taken as sour grapes

      • Robert Guyton 8.2.1

        His claims, under oath presumably, will have the ring of truth about them and people will recognise that – people other than sycophants that is, PR.

        • Puckish Rogue 8.2.1.1

          Maybe but we also see what we want to see, so I might be wrong (and if proven I'll admit it) but I don't think this is going to be the election changer

    • peterh 8.3

      Get the popcorn Jami lee said he had lots more tapes just before his breakdown

      • veutoviper 8.3.1

        Exactly – see 8.1.1 above.

        • Puckish Rogue 8.3.1.1

          Sorry but I think you, and all those who think this is going to smite National and Bridges, are going to be a bit disappointed when this is all over

          • Incognito 8.3.1.1.1

            Fact is that Mr Ross was the National Party’s Chief Whip and collected the donations on behalf of the National Party and their leaders Mrs Bill English and Simon Bridges. He didn’t pocket the money for himself but for his party and superiors. This is how and why he rose through the National Party ranks.

            I’d be disappointed, but not surprised, if this saga becomes just another entry in Wikipedia with no other consequences. The National Party and its past Leaders have done and been through worse and came out smelling like roses so it is quite possible that the voters will forgive them yet again for ‘pretty legal’ stuff behind the scenes. By and large, the electorate is forgiving and forgetting lot.

          • peterh 8.3.1.1.2

            I would not say much more if I were you just remember. the toes you trod on today my be on the foot that kicks your arse tomorrow

          • Robert Guyton 8.3.1.1.3

            Your "thinks" though, Pucky, are wrong smiley

  8. veutoviper 9

    TRP, It might be me but I could not find a link in the post to the Herald article (could be my eyesight at present as under treatment) so here is the link before there are demands for it:

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=1230988

    Re the actual SFO documents, do you have any link/source for these or are they just being quoted from by media etc with access without them actually providing access?

  9. Rapunzel 10

    I wonder how long before Bridges will have to withstand all the conjecture about Luxon if this leads to a by-election?

    • ScottGN 10.1

      I doubt there will be a by-election in Botany. We’re nearly within the 6 month period before the writ is dropped and this Parliament rises before the General Election. The PM will be under no pressure to call a by-election.

      • Rapunzel 10.1.1

        Thanks of that I was unsure

      • alwyn 10.1.2

        It isn't her choice whether to hold the by-election or not. A By-election will not be held if there are less than six months before a General Election AND 75% of the members of the House agree not to hold one.

        In practice that means that both National and Labour would have to decide not to have one. It isn't a decision that is made by the PM.

        There is a section in this link which explains when a by-election will not be held.

        https://elections.nz/elections-in-nz/what-is-a-by-election/

        I can't really see why either National or Labour would want one though.

  10. observer 11

    On the first day of the new Parliament in 2017, Chris Hipkins got maths-muddled and National scored a Very Big Win, according to the excitable journos watching. That shot of Bridges and Ross together, defeating the hapless newbie, was the defining image in the media. Best Blue Buddies In Control!

    That sound of purring you hear is coming from Hipkins' office … sweet and satisfying.

  11. Fireblade 12

    The Communist Party of China will be fuming over this court case.

  12. Sacha 13

    Nat leader and deputy Bridges and Bennett have both associated with charged donor Yikun Zhang. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/107875950/chinese-businessman-embroiled-in-corruption-allegations-had-simon-bridges-over-for-dinner-wife-says

    He is founder and chairman of Chao Shan General Association – an organisation of New Zealand Chinese who share the same hometown of Chaoshan, a region in the coastal city Guangdong, China.

    In July National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett posted photos on her Facebook page of her and Jami-Lee Ross sitting at the same table as Zhang for the opening of the Chao Shan General Association's new function centre.

    • Robert Guyton 13.1

      "

      In July National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett posted photos on her Facebook page of her and Jami-Lee Ross sitting at the same table as Zhang for the opening of the Chao Shan General Association's new function centre."

      Oh dear!

  13. Adrian 14

    Are we missing something really important? I 'm pretty sure I heard something this morning like "the $100k came as a payment from offshore "".

    Thats the election game changer as it was apparently passed off as a deposit on a property in non-existant fraudulent deal.

    Hope it comes with complimentary popcorn and I'll be having champagne with mine.

  14. ianmac 15

    Remember the phone call Jamie/Simon when Simon said yes we need that money ($100.000) for our Facebook ads. My recollection was that Simon wanted to hang onto that money for their own use rather than to hand into the Party Fund. Hence the call for the breaking up into smaller amounts.

  15. mosa 16

    I hope we never state fund political parties if it means missing out on all of this.

  16. Adam Ash 17

    In isolation such donations don't mean a thing. The big question is "What did they buy?"

    What subsequent contra came back to the donors from National party or MPs for their largesse? What freedoms have we lost? What laws have been changed to the advantage of the donors (or their masters)?

    Keep digging – important answers lie waiting to be revealed by diligent search!

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  • Supporting stranded seasonal workers to keep working with more flexible options
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  • Dual place names for Te Pātaka-o-Rākaihautū / Banks Peninsula features
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  • Government and Air New Zealand agree to manage incoming bookings
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