Simon Bridges distancing himself from National Party following Serious Fraud Office investigation

National Party leader Simon Bridges is distancing himself from his party now that Jami-Lee Ross' complaint about donations is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). 

Police confirmed on Tuesday the complaint, which was received in October last year, was in relation to the disclosure of political donations under the Electoral Act.

In October last year, the former National MP went to the police over allegations National Party leader Simon Bridges was involved in unlawful activity relating to political donations.

He alleged Mr Bridges had committed electoral fraud by asking him to split up a $100,000 donation from Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun into smaller amounts, so they could be hidden from the Electoral Commission.

The now-independent Botany MP released a recorded phone conversation between him and Mr Bridges, where he can be heard asking his then-leader what to do with the $100,000 donation. 

"They talked to you about a $100,000 donation... What would you like done with it? It's currently sitting in a Botany electorate account," Mr Ross asked Mr Bridges in the recorded phone conversation.

"Fantastic... Look, I just think we want it for the advertisements and the like, you know?" Mr Bridges replied. 

Mr Ross on Tuesday defended himself from claims that he could face prosecution if it was discovered he had broken up smaller donations to hide them from the Electoral Commission. 

"I have seen in some media stories a claim or a statement that I broke up the $100,000. I did not," he told media in Wellington. 

"The funds, before it entered National Party accounts, came in in amounts smaller than the $15,000 disclosure threshold.

"The $100,000 donation was offered by the donor directly to Simon [Bridges] on the 21st May and it was after that contact with Simon at a National Party event in the Epsom electorate that he then phoned me and asked me to initiate contact with the donor.  

"The $100,000 was not broken up by me, and any stories claiming that are incorrect."

Mr Ross said he understands there is some "work being done in relation to tracking the money backwards into different accounts". 

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Bridges said the new investigation has absolutely nothing to do with him: "I'm very clear it's got no involvement for me. We'll see what the National Party has to say."

When asked if he has full confidence that the National Party hasn't done anything wrong, it took him a while to finally say yes. 

"I've got nothing that concerns me about any of this... I don't think National MPs have anything to worry about. We have nothing to hide. We do want to see swift justice here."

Deputy National leader Paula Bennett was asked on Tuesday if she had seen a donation broken up, to which she replied "no".

"I know as much as you do."

Mr Ross said the SFO is the "right organisation to be looking at this and I'm happy to cooperate with the Serious Fraud Office just as I was happy to cooperate with New Zealand Police". 

He said he went to the police on his "own initiative" and did so "without having a legal counsel with me, because I was confident that the information I was providing police was sufficient for them to undertake their investigations". 

"The National Party said the claims were baseless... I was able to prove them wrong at the time by showing police a recording showing we had discussed a $100,000 donation. Now New Zealand Police have referred that to the Serious Fraud Office.

"Every time I've been told that I was wrong or baseless, I've been able to come up with some evidence or information, and that just shows that there are serious issues there around donations in the National Party that should be investigated properly.

"Things don't get referred to the Serious Fraud Office unless there's good reason to."

University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said last year the alleged offence carried a two-year prison sentence and would "lead to automatic expulsion from Parliament".

"Essentially the allegation is that the leader of the Opposition Party committed a very serious offence under our electoral laws," he told Newshub.

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