Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Businessman 'donated to Governments of both colours'

Chinese businessman breaks his silence

Liu forged links with MPs from both sides of the political spectrum. Photos / NZ Herald
Liu forged links with MPs from both sides of the political spectrum. Photos / NZ Herald

Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu has confirmed for the first time that he donated to the Labour Party.

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The 53-year-old has been at the centre of political scandals involving National and Labour for months but yesterday broke his silence to say he had given "equally to Governments of both colours".

National declared a $22,000 donation in 2012, but Labour found no records of Liu donations after the Herald revealed that he paid $15,000 for a book at an auction fundraiser in 2007.

There is also a photograph of his partner receiving a bottle of wine from a Labour minister at an auction.

"Any political donations have always been given in good faith without any expectation. It is over to the politicians to make any appropriate declarations," Liu said in a statement.

"However, because I've built relationships with politicians, made donations, because it's election year and, dare I say, because I'm Chinese, I suppose I've been an easy target for some to gain some political mileage and score some points."

Investigations by the Weekend Herald this year have shown that Liu forged links with MPs from both sides of the political spectrum.

He was granted citizenship in 2010 after support from National minister Maurice Williamson and John Banks, the Auckland mayor at the time, as well as having personal meetings with Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse to lobby him about changing rules for wealthy immigrants.

Mr Williamson resigned from his ministerial portfolios after the paper revealed he phoned senior police about a prosecution involving Liu.

This week, Labour has come under fire for the undeclared donations, and party leader David Cunliffe has fought to save his job after the Herald revealed that he wrote a letter for Liu's residency, despite previous denials.

Another Labour minister, Damien O'Connor, approved the residency against official advice the day before the 2005 election.

The events had left Liu feeling "like a bit of a political football" and that media had "treated me as some opportunistic foreigner who is only here to make money and throw his weight around".

"Sure, I've donated to political parties, met and socialised with MPs, even lobbied for changes to enable more investment into the country. However, let me be clear, no one's ever promised to deliver me anything," said Liu.

"Every New Zealand politician I've ever dealt with over the years has pretty much just said 'Thank you Donghua, we hear you loud and clear, we know we can do better, but we've got a lot to consider'."

Liu said many other business owners had made political donations and asked for law changes.

"I make no apology for lobbying for more effective immigration and investment policy as I genuinely believe the country is starved of international capital ... the current laws are too hard for too many international investors, who live from country to country and may not speak the language. That's the reality of modern-day global business and investment."

The inference that Liu "somehow bought and bullied my way into getting New Zealand citizenship" hurt him the most. "I'm very proud to be a New Zealand citizen and to be a Kiwi. It's a great honour and one I cherish."

But Liu said he would not make any further comments about political donations or swear an affidavit outlining dollar amounts.

He denied allegations from former Labour Party minister Rick Barker that he was "drip feeding" information about his links to Labour.

Mr Barker, who was a guest of Liu at a lavish dinner on a Yangtze River cruise, had challenged the wealthy businessman to go public about allegations of donations to the party.

"It's important to remember that over the years I've given equally to Governments of both colours," said Liu. "As a private citizen it's not for me to make declarations about donations and political relationships."


Read also:
Labour must cling to the wreckage
Resignation should be far from Cunliffe's mind

- NZ Herald

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