Simon Bridges fires up over 'conspiracy theory nonsense' in debate over National Party donations

Simon Bridges has fired up over "conspiracy theory nonsense" in a debate over his proximity to the Chinese businessman charged over a donation to the National Party. 

Newshub revealed last week that Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun is one of four people charged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in January over donations to the National Party - their identities made public last week after name suppression was lifted.

Despite Bridges not facing SFO charges, nor any National MP or board member, Magic Talk's Peter Williams questioned "how well" the Opposition leader knows Zhang Yikun, after he donated $100,050 to the National Party in 2018.

"You must have known he was going to make donations to the National Party," Williams told Bridges on Monday, referring to a fundraising dinner the National leader attended with Zhang Yikun in May 2018.

"There is nothing there that is illegal," Bridges replied. "I think you've got to be very careful when making these claims about what you're saying."

Following a heated debate Bridges fired up at Williams, telling him: "We could do this every single week because you've got nothing and you're not going to have anything because there is nothing.

"If you want to read BFD and excite yourself every week Peter, with this kind of conspiracy theory nonsense, good for you mate."

BFD is the reincarnation of Whale Oil, the website of former far-right blogger Cameron Slater, who sparked the 2014 book Dirty Politics

Zhang Yikun has been charged along with three others, including former National MP Jami-Lee Ross and Colin Zheng, Zhang's business partner and prospective National Party candidate.

The group are due to appear in court on Tuesday. 

Simon Bridges pictured with Zhang Yikun in 2018.
Simon Bridges pictured with Zhang Yikun in 2018. Photo credit: Twitter

In 2018, Ross laid a complaint with police alleging Bridges had asked him to break up the $100,050 donation from Zhang Yikun because smaller sums under $15,000 would not have to be declared - but Bridges is not facing any charges.

"Here's the deal: Jami-Lee Ross made outlandish allegations in relation to me. He is now the one that is being charged - not the National Party," Bridges told Williams.

Williams referred to a secret recording Ross released to the public in 2018, in which Ross could be heard asking his then-leader, Simon Bridges, what to do with the donation from Zhang Yikun.

"[Ross] also told you - and it was on tape and it was released to the public - that [the donation] was in and you must have known then that it was going to be split."

In the recording, Ross could be heard telling Bridges that the donation was "now in", and the National leader replied "fantastic", before discussing how it could be spent on "advertisements".

Ross also said on the tape the donation "meets the requirements where it's under the particular disclosure level because they're a big association and there's multiple people and multiple people make donations".

Bridges told Williams: "If people want to go and listen to it they can do that and what they will hear quite clearly is absolutely nothing unlawful from me whatsoever, and so it has been found."

Bridges said last month he has "no intention of keeping" the donation from Zhang Yikun, and that he had asked the Electoral Commission for advice on what to do with it. 

In Ross' recording, Bridges could also be heard discussing the prospect of having another Chinese National Party candidate, Colin Zhang, who is facing SFO charges.

Williams asked Bridges if Colin Zheng was ever going to be a National Party candidate.

"I don't know," Bridges replied. "I think the position was he was about to go into the candidate's college, but again, there is nothing wrong with any of that."