As it happened: National Party President finds 'no proof' of Simon Bridges' alleged corruption

The Jami-Lee Ross saga has continued into a second explosive day, with the Botany MP resigning from the National Party and accusing Simon Bridges of electoral fraud.

A PWC report into a leak of Mr Bridges' travel expenses indicated Mr Ross is the likely leaker.

Mr Ross vehemently denies the accusation, and in a series of tweets on Tuesday released more information about what he claims is unlawful activity from Mr Bridges.

What you need to know:

  • The National Party has voted unanimously to expel Jami-Lee Ross from the party
  • Jami-Lee Ross said he was told by Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett four women had accused him of sexual harassment. He vehemently denies the allegations
  • Mr Ross alleges Mr Bridges instructed him to hide an electoral donation of $100,000. Mr Bridges denies this
  • Mr Ross said he has recording of the conversation where he was asked to hide the money and will be taking it to the police
  • A by-election will be held in Botany and Mr Ross will stand as an independent

Live updates have now ended.

5:30pm - Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis says Mr Bridges could face jail time if the allegations against him are proven true.

"Knowingly filing a false donation return under the Electoral Act is a corrupt practice, and entering into an arrangement to try to do so is to be a party to that corrupt practice," he told Newshub.

"If these allegations are founded, Simon Bridges has to resign, full stop."

The alleged offence carries a two-year prison sentence and would lead to automatic expulsion from Parliament.

4:30pm - National Party President Peter Goodfellow says there's no evidence to support Mr Ross' allegations of electoral donation fraud.

"We can find no proof of the accusations and assertions made by Jami-Lee Ross today in regard to the handling of our political donations," he said in a statement.

"The allegations made by Mr Ross appear inconsistent with the donor information we have to date, including information previously supplied by Mr Ross.

"We understand Mr Ross will be taking his allegations to the Police, and we invite him to do so.

The National Party complies with the provisions of the Electoral Act, and our donations are comprehensively audited by a third party every year."

3:40pm - Deputy Paula Bennett says National is "strong as a caucus" and as a party, despite Mr Ross' "disloyalty and threatening behaviour".

2:50pm - A worker at a Remuera property owned by Mr Zhang told Newshub he's been in China since last Sunday. 

2:35pm - Mr Ross says Mr Bridges was offered the donation at the private dinner. He claims Mr Bridges called him later that evening to instruct him on how to collect the $100,000.

2:32pm - Mr Ross has tweeted photos of Mr Bridges attending a private fundraiser in May alongside Mr Zhang, the businessman Mr Ross alleges gave Mr Bridges $100,000 in corrupt party donations. 

2:15pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Labour party now needs to look into their plan for the Botany by-election.

"It's a seat that has had a significant majority. There's no doubt this is going to be a scrap that will have a different dynamic to it, whether or not that will result in a shift over to our direction seems very unlikely."

2:10pm - Mr Peters says if petrol prices are so high, why did Mr Ross drive all the way from Auckland to Wellington on Monday?

2:06pm - Mr Bridges has returned to the debating chamber for Question Time, where he opened the session by questioning the Prime Minister's data around fuel prices.

2:02pm - Winston Peters has offered his own contribution about the day's chaotic events.

1.03pm - He again refused to talk about a $10,000 donation from the Cathedral Club.

1:01pm- When asked if at any stage did Yikun Zhang offer him or National a $100,000 donation, he responded that it was a matter for Jami-Lee Ross to take to police.

12.59pm - When questioned if he had asked Mr Ross to hide a donation of $100,000 Mr Bridges said “no.”

12.50pm - Mr Bridges repeatedly refused to answer questions about specific allegations, saying it was a matter for the police. 

12.47pm - Mr Bridges said there was "zero chance of having done anything illegal, I can tell you that".

Simon Bridges speaks to media.
Simon Bridges speaks to media. Photo credit: Newshub.

12.40pm - Mr Bridges said Mr Ross is "irrelevant as far as we're concerned," and called him a "lone wolf."

12:38pm -: Mr Bridges refused to comment on whether he took a donation from a Chinese business man. 

12.37pm - Mr Bridges said he has done nothing wrong and urged Mr Ross to go to police and let them investigate. 

12:35pm - Mr Bridges said Mr Ross has behaved appallingly and put himself above caucus.  

12:32pm - Mr Bridges has confirmed Mr Ross has been expelled and is no longer part of National. 

12.29pm - Simon Bridges is about to address the media. 

Simon Bridges leaving the lift.
Simon Bridges leaving the lift. Photo credit: Newshub.

12:22pm - Newshub understands the National Party caucus has voted unanimously to expel Jami-Lee Ross. 

11:56am - Mr Ross has now finished speaking. 

11:54am - National Party caucus has ended.

Mr Ross is still speaking to media, but National MPs can be seen in the hallways of Parliament having left the caucus room.

National Party MPs
Photo credit: Newshub.

11:41am - Mr Ross has no idea what his fellow MPs have said about him.

He said he turned his phone off at 1pm on Monday and drove from Auckland to Wellington. He did not turn it on again until he sent a tweet saying he will speak to media at 11am on Tuesday.

11:38am - Mr Ross said he's not behind recent leaks to Duncan Garner.

The AM Show host revealed on Monday internal polls from the National Party have Mr Bridges polling in the negatives for favourability.

Mr Ross said in his statement that Mr Bridges is polling at negative 27 percent.

11:31am - Mr Ross names Chinese businessman behind $100,000 donation.

Mr Ross alleged Mr Bridges asked him to split up the donation so where it came from did not need to be disclosed.

He said the man's name is Zhang Yikun.

A crowd of reporters around Mr Ross.
A crowd of reporters around Mr Ross. Photo credit: Newshub.

11:28am - Mr Ross has used his speech to attack Simon Bridges, alleging he is corrupt, deeply unpopular with the electorate and his leadership is flawed.

11:23am - Mr Ross says he and Paula Bennett told Simon Bridges not to go forward with the leak inquiry.

He said he was "floored by the lack of compassion" during the inquiry.

11:16am - Mr Ross has resigned his National Party membership and seat in the House of Representatives.

He will stand as an independent at an upcoming Botany by-election. 

11:15am - Four women allegedly accused Mr Ross of sexual harassment.

Mr Ross refutes the allegations. He said the allegations were presented to him by Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett.

Jami-Lee Ross speaks to media.
Jami-Lee Ross speaks to media. Photo credit: Newshub.

11:14am - Mr Ross admits he had a "mental breakdown" over issues with Bridges.

He said he was extremely disappointed with Mr Bridges comments that his health problem was "embarrassing".

11:09am - Mr Ross will be going to the police to lay a complaint against Simon Bridges.

He says he will be playing the police a recording of Mr Bridges asking him to take part in unlawful activity.

11:04am - Jami-Lee Ross has arrived and begun reading a statement.

He said he will be taking questions after the statement ends. He said he believes Simon Bridges is incapable of being Prime Minister.

"Simon is a flawed individual without a moral compass," he said.

10:49am - Jami-Lee Ross has said he will be speaking to media at 11am.

The embattled MP announced it on Twitter.

10:45am - Those of us who can remember the halcyon days of 2011 will note there's a hint of irony in a possible by-election in Botany following Mr Ross's scandal.

As Mark Sainsbury pointed out in his opinion piece, Mr Ross won the seat with 54 percent of the vote in a by-election following the 2010 resignation of MP Pansy Wood over a scandal of her own.

Ms Wong was the first MP to win the seat when it was contested for the first time in 2008. If Mr Ross forces a by-election it means the seat will have been won by more MPs contesting a by-election forced by resignation in disgrace than a regular general election.

10:24am - Judith Collins has again distanced herself from speculation she was involved in the leak.

"That would be totally delusional, and as delusional as what we saw yesterday from him," Ms Collins told Newshub.

"Quite clearly Jami-Lee Ross stood against me on both of the last leadership rounds and actively has not supported me.

"I take loyalty very seriously, it's something I value and it's something I give. I'm giving my loyalty to the leader, I think he's been dealing with a very difficult situation."

Ms Collins said Simon Bridges knows he can trust her.

9:51am - Otago University Law Professor Andrew Geddis says the process for suspending Mr Ross could come down to a simple majority vote.

He told Radio NZ the National Party constitution does not have any provision for suspension or expulsion from Caucus.

The party does have provision for disciplinary proceedings like revoking membership, but these could be legally contestable.

Law expert Bill Hodge told Newshub earlier in the morning that it would be a bad idea for Jami-Lee Ross to try and fight this battle in the courts.

"This is reverberating and resonating politically rather than, quote, legally, I'd never suggest to politicians that they go into the courts to seek legal remedies," he said.

9:25am - Party members Newshub spoke to on their way to Tuesday's caucus meeting mostly expressed support for Mr Bridges and disappointment in Mr Ross.

Judith Collins said she believed the incident would be "extraordinarily career-limiting" for Mr Ross and dismissed any suggestion she was involved in the leak.

"I'm appalled by the behaviour and I'm fully supporting the leader in this," she said.

"I think this is an extraordinary situation and I've got to say those tweets yesterday were without reason that I could possibly imagine."

9:20am - Scott Simpson said he believed Mr Bridges had handled the situation well.

"We'll wait and see, we go to caucus very shortly, see what the leader and colleagues have to say," Scott Simpson said.

"Of course [Mr Bridges should still be leader]. He's leader of the party I've got great confidence in him."

9:15am - Maggie Barry and Nick Smith, both formerly ministers in the National Government, refused to comment before caucus.

"I'm sure you can guess [what will be discussed today]," Ms Barry said.

Michael Woodhouse called the situation "incredibly disappointing".

"[Mr Ross's future is] a matter for a process that will take place today, but he's got some serious explaining to do," he said.

9am - Act Party leader David Seymour said he hoped Mr Ross comes out of the situation okay personally.

"Every political party's had its share of trouble over the years and looks like this week it's the National Party's turn," he said.

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz