Greens co-leader Metiria Turei could be forced to quit Parliament if she is convicted of benefit fraud.
While benefit fraud is legislated under the Social Security Act, the Ministry of Social Development generally prosecute under the Crimes Act.
The charges usually used are:
- obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception (punishable by up to three years imprisonment)
- dishonestly taking or using document (punishable by up to seven years imprisonment).
Under the Electoral Act, if an MP is convicted of a crime punishable with a sentence of more than two years, they have to leave Parliament.
Ms Turei will meet with investigators from the Ministry of Social Development next week about her benefit fraud, but that's the least of her concerns.
The main worry is how her admission of benefit fraud is going down with voters.
Ms Turei lied to get more money, and it goes back to when her daughter Piupiu was born. She says she had no other option, although she did have time to campaign for the McGillicuddy Serious Party in 1993 and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 1996.
It opens up the question - why didn't she just get a part-time job?
"I want also to be a person who engages in New Zealand's democratic community - and I think any person whether they are on a benefit or not - should be entitled to do that," Ms Turei said.
Ms Turei was on the Domestic Purposes Benefit from 1993 until 1998. In three flats during that time, she lied about how many flatmates she had to get extra money.
Ms Turei has said she'll repay all over the overpayment - but the Greens' main worry now is that the admission of fraud will see them punished at the ballot box.