MP Jami-Lee Ross speaks out on criminal charges laid against him over National Party donations

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross is facing charges which carry a prison term of up to seven years if convicted.

Name suppression has been lifted for the four people charged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over donations to the National Party.

Ross, who made the donation allegations in the first place, is one of them.

The other three are Zhang Yikun, the wealthy Chinese businessman who allegedly offered a $100,050 donation to National; Colin Zheng, Zhang's business partner and prospective National Party candidate; and Hengjia Zheng.

In a statement made exclusively to Newshub and NZ Herald Ross made a plea, "I was the whistleblower and as a result ever since I have been attacked by the party and its supporters for bringing this matter to the attention of the nation.

"Some seek to make me out as the bad guy, while that may be convenient spin for the party I will not be the National Party’s fall guy".

If the case goes to trial Ross is promising to provide evidence to back up his claims, "it will then be clear who is behind any scheme but the public statements from Mr Bridges and the party that they had no involvement is simply not true."

Ross says he had not applied for name suppression as the other three defendants had and hadn't wanted suppression, "while shocked that I had been targeted by the SFO I had no intention of hiding away. 

"I had always wanted to make it very clear as the whistleblower on this deception it was outrageous that I was then charged and that others were seeking to implicate me, making me their expendable scapegoat."

Ross was extended name suppression when it was granted to the other three defendants. He says he proactively sought to have it lifted so he could make this statement. 

Although Ross says he's hamstrung by what he can say as the case is before the courts he went on to say a lot. 

"I want everyone to know and understand my position. I have never been involved in any deception to do with donations."

In 2018 Ross laid a complaint with police alleging Simon Bridges had asked him to break up a $100,050 donation from Zhang because smaller sums under $15,000 would not have to be declared.

Bridges has always steadfastly denied the claims. 

In his statement today, Ross reiterated the allegations, "I felt that I needed to expose the concerns that I had about the donations in 2018 that had been offered to Mr Bridges, in person, at an event that I was not in attendance at.

Ross says that months after donations were made he received new information and was concerned they were not in compliance with the Electoral Act, "as soon as I learned this information I advised the party to return the donations".

Court documents released to Newshub revealed the charges related to not one, but two $100,000 donations. The 2018 donation and another made in 2017 when Bill English was National Leader and Prime Minister. 

In relation to the 2018 donation, the charging documents detail the SFO's allegations saying, "the defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem whereby the 2018 donation was split into sums of money less than $15,000, and transferred into the bank accounts of eight different people, before being paid to, and retained by, the National Party".

All four defendants face charges of deception over the 2018 donation. 

Ross, Zhang and Colin Zheng face the same charge in relation to the 2017 donation. Hengjia Zheng does not but is also facing a charge of providing misleading information to the SFO. 

The four will appear in the Auckland District Court next Tuesday.