Winston Peters refusing to stand down despite Serious Fraud Office probe

Winston Peters is refusing to stand down despite a major development in the New Zealand First donation scandal: The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) opening a criminal investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation.

Peters, leader of New Zealand First, launched a media attack on Tuesday, uploading a video to Facebook so that his more than 95,000 followers could "hear it from the source".

"I'm not going to accept the state of affairs," he said. "As long as some in the media keep telling lies about my party, and me, I'll keep telling the truth about them. That's the deal."

But the diversion failed to distract from the SFO's announcement earlier in the day, which prompted questions to the Prime Minister about whether Peters should be stood down as a minister.

"I'm awaiting the outcome of those investigations," Jacinda Ardern said.

In 2008, it was a different story. On July 30 that year, the SFO started assessing whether to investigate New Zealand First donations.

A month later, it opened the investigation, and the very next day - after a secret meeting with then-Prime Minister Helen Clark - Peters stood down as minister.

Peters justified not doing the same this time, telling Newshub: "They said they were investigating me [that time]. I stood down and was cleared by three independent bodies."

The National Party's deputy leader Paula Bennett had a different view. 

"Quite frankly, by his own standards, he should be standing down," she told reporters.

The New Zealand First Foundation - run by Peters' close friend and lawyer Brian Henry - is accused of hiding undeclared donations to the New Zealand First Party.

Peters has tried to distance himself from the New Zealand First Foundation. Last week he said he was "not involved in any way, shape or form".

Bennett said she thinks the party and foundation are "one of the same".

The National Party was also recently under investigation by the SFO. Last month, the agency laid charges against four people in relation to National's donations.

Neither National leader Simon Bridges nor any National MPs or board members have been charged by the SFO.

Newshub asked Bennett why Bridges didn't stand while the SFO investigated his party.

She replied: "He's not a senior minister in charge of billions of dollars."

Court documents show the four people charged by the SFO in relation to National's donations are all charged with deception over a donation of $100,050 in 2018.

And it's not just the initial $100,000 that former National MP Jami-lee Ross revealed. There is another dating back to Bill English's time as leader and Prime Minister.

"I didn't know any of this, I have no information in relation to the other donation," Bridges said on Tuesday.

The National leader promised to pay back the $100,000 under his watch but he would not say on Tuesday what he will do about the other one.