Winston Peters blasts 'filthy allegations' about New Zealand First hiding donations

Winston Peters is rubbishing claims New Zealand First tried to hide donations from the New Zealand First Foundation, describing it as "filthy allegations without any proof".

The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader told Magic Talk he's "very confident that in every respect New Zealand First has for 27 years operated strictly within the law". 

The allegations were raised in a Stuff report citing documents that raised questions about financial exchanges between the New Zealand First Foundation and New Zealand First Party. 

Peters, when asked what the purpose of the New Zealand First Foundation is, told Peter Williams: "I suppose its purpose is to advance democracy in this great country." 

The documents, according to Stuff, showed six donations had not been declared to the Electoral Commission in 2018. The investigation also cited evidence that 13 donations hadn't been declared in 2017. 

Public law expert Graeme Edgeler told Stuff the Electoral Act may have been broken because donations from the foundation had not been declared. 

But Peters told Magic Talk all of the loans the New Zealand First Party has received from the foundation had been paid back, and he said those making the donations are entitled to privacy.

"If they're making donations to the party legally, they are entitled to the protection of the law," Peters told Williams.

"Not some snooping advice that says 'you've given $100 to the New Zealand First Party, why'd you do that?' That's not what our great society's based on.

"It's based on the secrecy of ballot behaviour including the funding of political parties. You take that away, and you've got a dictatorship.

"Everything that was required to be declared by New Zealand First for 27 years has been declared."

The Electoral Commission said in a statement to Newshub that the documents have not been shown to them.

"We will be contacting New Zealand First and the New Zealand First Foundation to seek further information," the spokesperson said.

Peters said in a statement New Zealand First "look forward to discussing this matter with the Electoral Commission". 

Williams asked Peters about the Stuff investigation, telling him it cited documents that show New Zealand First tried to hide donations from the New Zealand First Foundation.

"I don't want to see some amateur journalist come to these conclusions," Peters replied.

"Either the documents are legal or they're not legal. Either there's a legal purpose covered by the law, or it's illegal... We don't want to see the word "may" or "could be" - these are filthy allegations without any proof."

Peters reflected on the "last time a serious allegation" was made about him in regards to donations, in 2008 under Helen Clark's government.

Clark stood him down as a minister while the Serious Fraud Office investigated a donation from logistics and transport billionaire Owen Glenn, of $100,000.

"All found me to be innocent," Peters said. "But that's not the perception you put out to the public, was it? And here we go again in 2019."

Glenn told Parliament's privileges committee at the time that Peters had solicited the donation and knew about it, despite saying it had been given to his lawyer Brian Henry and that he didn't know about it.

Peters was cleared by the Serious Fraud Office. But Parliament's privileges committee recommended he be censured for "knowingly providing false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests."

Peters reiterated that New Zealand First is "confident that we have obeyed the law in this country for 27 long years", and said "other parties have done the very reverse".

He pointed to allegations raised by former National MP Jami-Lee Ross who last year against National leader Simon Bridges

Ross accused Bridges of committing 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.

Bridges defended himself at the time, saying: "I don't think National MPs have anything to worry about. We have nothing to hide."

Peters asked Williams why the media wants to "attack one political party".

"Should I take it that it's a barometric measure of our rise in the polls?"