Barry Soper: Someone likely to end up as toast after Nats SFO probe

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 13 March 2019, 6:41AM
A subdued Bridges seemed to think it was a matter for the National Party, saying there are questions for it to answer and he was sure it will do that.
A subdued Bridges seemed to think it was a matter for the National Party, saying there are questions for it to answer and he was sure it will do that.

COMMENT:

Simon Bridges' voice was a few octaves lower than usual, he was subdued and he looked shocked as he talked to reporters within minutes of receiving news that police had referred the National Party donation complaint to the Serious Fraud Office.

Late last year he made a statement to the police about the allegation lobbed by the fireball MP Jami-Lee Ross over a $100,000 donation, earmarked for Labour Party attack ads, from a Chinese businessman.

The pair had dinner with the businessman in May, Ross claims, and the donation followed with an excited call from Bridges telling him it had to be split into donations smaller than $15,000 to avoid it being declared.

After he went feral, Ross released a series of texts between him and National's general secretary, Greg Hamilton, who's in charge of donations, showing the names put up as donors couldn't be found on the electoral roll, with the Nat official asking Ross if there was a particular individual who'd organised them.

Ross texted back saying it was Bridges. He messaged if there was a problem, bank account numbers could be tracked down and the money returned. Not surprisingly Hamilton said that would be a shame and asked Ross, who agreed, to find out who supplied the names and addresses of the donors.

That's where the text dump by the disgruntled MP stopped and we were left wondering whether the donors were found, or indeed if they ever existed. It's worth remembering though that the text exchange was done when Ross was Bridges' mate.

So why did the cops wash their hands of it and hand the matter on to the white-collar crime team? Well, under the SFO's charter they can be asked to step in when there's a significant legal or financial complexity beyond the resources of other law enforcement agencies. And they also focus on corruption allegations involving public officials.

A subdued Bridges seemed to think it was a matter for the National Party, saying there are questions for it to answer and he was sure it will do that. As for him, well he was pretty sure any investigation had nothing to do with him - which is certainly not the way Ross sees it. It's got everything to do with Bridges.

National will be hoping the SFO sees the matter its way.

At the end of it, someone's likely to end up as toast.

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