We know a couple of things. Here’s the Herald’s first story about Donghua Liu’s donations to Labour:
A wealthy Auckland businessman, whose links to the National Party led to a minister’s resignation, also made a secret $15,000 donation to the Labour Party – and hosted a Cabinet minister at a lavish dinner in China.
The Labour Party has previously accused the Government of “cash for access” deals with Donghua Liu, who received citizenship after lobbying from National minister Maurice Williamson and whose hotel was later opened by Prime Minister John Key.
But the Herald can reveal Liu, 53, also paid $15,000 at a Labour Party auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark, the Prime Minister at the time, according to a party source.
The story was written by Jared Savage, who’s been very good at fronting on twitter to ask questions about his stories. This morning I asked him:
Okay then. In the Herald on Sunday story in which the announcement of the $100,000 donation was made public we learned that the Herald’s story was based on a signed statement dated May 3rd, two days after Maurice Williamson’s resignation, which came after the revelation that he interfered in the police investigation of Liu. The Prime Minister stated on Thursday 19th of June that was aware of this second donation for ‘some weeks’ as well as the letter Cunliffe wrote on behalf of Liu back in 2003.
So there are two separate sources. One – the party source – went to the Herald with the story about a $15,000 donation. The other went and talked to Liu shortly after the Williamson resignation, obtained details of his dealings with Labour Party MPs, made the Prime Minister aware of this information but withheld it from the media for about five weeks, finally making it available to the Herald on Saturday 21st June – the Herald’s editor won’t say who provided it to him but it wasn’t Liu. So that’s not very mysterious.
Did this $100,000 donation take place? Labour have been very strong in their denials. I heard their party president claim on 3News that there was ‘no trace’, and that everyone would have remembered such a large donation. And Liu doesn’t seem totally reliable. It sounds as if his ‘$50,000 trip hosting Rick Barker on a cruise on the Yangtzee river’ was just a staff function for Liu’s company that Rick Barker attended.
On the other hand, on the Electoral Commission website we see these returns for 2007:
|New Zealand Labour Party||Palmer Theron, Solicitors, on behalf of an undisclosed client||PO Box 2721717, Papakura 2244||150,000.00|
|New Zealand Labour Party||Simpson Grierson, Barristers & Solicitors, on behalf of an undisclosed client||Private Bag 92518, Auckland||50,000.00|
|New Zealand Labour Party||Morrison Kent, Lawyers, on behalf of an undisclosed client||PO Box 10035, Wellington||30,000.00|
I asked Jared Savage if he’d asked Labour about these donations. He replied that there was no point since they were anonymous. Graeme Edgeler clarified that the identity of the donor only had to be unknown by the party at the time the return was filed. It’s okay if they found out afterwards. Also, I basically do not believe that any political party would receive donations for $50,000 or $150,000 and have no idea where they came from, so it’d be good to hear from Labour if they could rule out that none of those donations came from Lui. It’s not very credible to insist that you have ‘no trace’ of a donation while simultaneously insisting that you don’t know who gave you $150,000.
Update: On RNZ:
Mr Barnet dismissed a suggestion that a $150,000 anonymous donation made in 2007 via the law firm Palmer Theron might cover the Liu claims.
“What we’ve done is to check Donghua Liu’s lawyer whether he has a link with any of the three law firms through which we receive donations and there’s no link that we can see. The allegation is that he paid at an auction $100,000 – you wouldn’t pay $100,000 as an anonymous donation through a lawyer.”
The editor-in-chief of the Herald on Sunday says it stands by its decision to publish a statement from Mr Liu about donations to the Labour Party.
Editor-in-chief Tim Murphy said there were dates and other aspects of Mr Liu’s statement the paper needed to clarify, but said the Herald verified the signed statement was from the businessman.
He said it was yet to be seen whether Mr Lui’s claims were correct, but said he would not hand the statement to Labour.
If the Herald can’t substantiate anything the heat is going to go on them to release the statement. You can’t make allegations like this on your front page in an election year and then refuse to provide any evidence which might help the subject of the story defend themselves.