Simon Bridges did discuss support with businessman Zhang Yikun - Paula Bennett

  • 17/10/2018

National's deputy leader Paula Bennett says Simon Bridges did talk to a Chinese businessman at the centre of corruption allegations against the National Party leader.

Mr Bridges wouldn't answer questions on Tuesday about the alleged $100,000 donation from Zhang Yikun.

Earlier on Tuesday, the now-former MP Jami-Lee Ross announced he would lay a complaint with police over Bridges, whom he called "a flawed individual without a moral compass" and accused of corruption.

One of Mr Ross's claims is that Mr Bridges told him to collect $100,000 from Mr Zhang, which he was then to be split into smaller parts so that it was below the threshold where it would have to be declared and made public.

On Wednesday Ms Bennett told RNZ's Morning Report that Mr Bridges has done nothing wrong.

But she did confirm her leader had spoken with Mr Zhang.

"Look he said he certainly had conversations with him and with others that have wanted to support the National Party," Ms Bennett told RNZ.

"He certainly had dinner with him. He's trying to recall that dinner and all of the conversations...

"He certainly thinks that it may have come up that he had said 'I want to support the National Party', Simon knowing that Jami-Lee knows him, probably did put him onto it, so we're trying to dig through all of it, remember (what happened) some months ago."

On Tuesday Mr Ross held a press conference as the party was meeting to expel him, announcing he would resign as Botany MP and as a member of the party, and that he would contest any by-election as an independent.

Does the donation exist?

Ms Bennett also seemed to cast doubt on whether the donation from Mr Zhang existed at all.

"What we need to do is dig in, find out actually if money was donated, where it went to and what Jami-Lee Ross has done with it," Ms Bennett told Newstalk ZB.

"We've been trying to find a donation like he says and how that's gone through and to be honest, if he has put something in that he's put in inappropriately - well, we can't be responsible for everything that he's done now."

Pressed on whether they're now denying that Mr Zhang gave them $100,000, Ms Bennett backtracked somewhat.

"No, we're just trying to make sure that we can look at exactly what has happened and how it's happened. You got to remember it's Jami-Lee Ross that actually dealt with this, as he said yesterday - and we're not sure what he's done."

'There's nothing dodgy in it'

Another leak to The AM Show host Duncan Garner is around a mysterious entity called the Cathedral Club and an electoral donation of $10,000.

Questioned on The AM Show over what exactly the Cathedral Club was, Ms Bennett insisted there was nothing dodgy going on.

"Oh look there's all sorts of different groups that we work with that are business clubs and... you know we have to fundraise and we have to run our party and run our campaigns and things, so that'll be one of them and it's all quite legitimate and there's nothing to see there," Ms Bennett said.

Pressed by Garner, Ms Bennett insisted she didn't know what the Cathedral Club was.

"I'm not sure. It's not something that I'm close to and it's something, probably, that the party knows."

"I'm guessing what it is, because there's different groups and different clubs and things that we're involved in throughout the country and I imagine that it's one of them."

Garner questioned Ms Bennett over how many clubs National was involved with like the Cathedral Club.

"Oh, we just have business clubs and things that we're involved in, there's nothing dodgy in it Duncan, I know what you're trying to do," she laughed.

"Look we're all above board, we follow the law, we do fundraise as does every party. Our leader is part of fundraising as are our MPs, in fact Jami-Lee Ross has been one of the best at it, he knows the law better than anyone else - I hope that he has actually done what legally needed to be done."

'He's throwing a tantrum'

Ms Bennett pointed out how Mr Ross described himself as naive on Tuesday when talking about the electoral law.

"Senior whip, seven years in Parliament, was integral in some of those laws going through - and now he's describing himself as naive."

"He's going down, he didn't get the job he wanted so he's throwing a tantrum, and he's trying to throw rocks at everybody else."

Ms Bennett repeated Mr Bridges and their team were confident they were in the right, and if Mr Ross wanted to go to the police with his allegations, he should.

"At the end of the day we've had a pretty rotten egg among our ranks that we've just discovered. Look, he's been kicked out and we're going to get on with the job we need to do."

"This is someone that's told so many lies, he doesn't know what the truth is."

Ms Bennett insists she's worried for her now-former colleague's mental health, after his dramatic press conference at the Beehive - which he said he drove nine hours straight to get to.

"That's for him and his doctor to ascertain, I'm not an expert - but I will say that I'm really concerned about him. Really concerned about him."

Ms Bennett agreed with Garner that the situation was a mess - she called it "a train wreck" and "kind of disturbing" to be a part of.

But she insists she's sure Mr Bridges will get through this - then repeated her concerns for Mr Ross.

"If you're talking to his camp, as you say you are - I think they should be looking at putting care around Jami-Lee Ross at the moment."