Timeline: The NZ First donations saga

A timeline of the NZ First donations controversy

September 2008

September 23: Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen says there are still no grounds for Winston Peters to be censured or sacked as minister.

Owen Glenn says he doubts any censure would bother Mr Peters.

However, MPs pass a formal censure vote against Mr Peters 62 votes to 56, with one abstention from Jim Anderton.

September 22: The privileges committee releases its report.

The majority finds that he knowingly filed a false return to Parliament when he failed to declare a $100,000 donation from billionaire Owen Glenn.

Mr Peters says the finding has "echoes of Zimbabwe". He says it was a "legal charade" as MPs had made their decisions on party lines and judged him guilty ahead of hearing any evidence.

September 19: The Herald reports that the Spencer Trust may have paid the $40,000 court costs awarded against Winston Peters in his unsuccessful Tauranga electoral petition against National MP Bob Clarkson.

Mr Peters later confirms the Spencer Trust reimbursed his lawyer Brian Henry, who had personally paid the costs.

September 18: The privileges committee considers evidence from the Serious Fraud Office on the Owen Glenn donation.

Winston Peters says the SFO has exceeded its powers by giving evidence but the office denies any misuse of statutory powers.

Mr Peters tries to table a letter from an angry SFO staffer to New Zealand First MP Ron Mark last month attacking his role in approving legislation that would merge the office with the police.
He emerges from the committee saying he didn't get a fair hearing because the media were not allowed in to hear him.

September 17: Helen Clark indicates she may delay a decision on Winston Peters' future as a minister until investigations by the privileges committee, Serious Fraud Office and police have ended.

September 16: Winston Peters' lawyer Brian Henry appears before the privileges committee and concedes the "client" he refers to Owen Glenn having spoken to in an email to the businessman was Mr Peters.

However, Mr Henry says money would not have been discussed and that he may have sent the email to Mr Glenn after having his memory jogged in his own conversation with Mr Peters.

He tells the committee: "What I have said to you is I do not have a recollection of these phone calls and this email."

September 15: The Spencer Trust formally formally complains to the Serious Fraud Office about the investigation it has launched into the affairs of the trust and donations to New Zealand First.

It says the investigation was unjustified and it should be promptly cleared.

September 11: Helen Clark says she will not sack Mr Peters immediately. However, she says she is"not ruling anything in or out" and also commented that Mr Peters' "belligerent attitude' may have put him in the position he finds himself in.

Labour Party president Mike Williams says he is happy to appear before the privileges committee to give his side of the story.

He says Mr Glenn asked him about Mr Peters' legal action but not whether he should donate money to the party.

September 10: Owen Glenn attacks the Labour Party telling reporters Helen Clark was "self-serving" and Labour president Mike Williams "wrestles with the truth".

Mr Peters reappears before the parliamentary privileges committee and again denies any knowledge of Mr Glenn's $100,000 donation to NZ First prior to July.

Mr Peters agreed there had been a phone conversation between himself and Mr Glenn on December 14 2005, but said he could not recall talking about money. He says instead the conversation was about Mr Glenn's desire for a consular role and diplomatic passport.

September 9: Owen Glenn appears before the privileges committee and produces a paper trail of phone calls, emails and an independent witness to apparently contradict Mr Peters position that he never solicited a $100,000 donation from the Monaco-based billionaire and did not know about it until July 18.

The Herald reports sources as saying Winston Peters knew about the Spencer Trust and directed staff to get it to pay party expenses from 2005 onwards. On July 29 Mr Peters told a press conference that he had no knowledge of what the trust was used for.

Mr Peters admits for the first time some knowledge of the Spencer Trust and its donation to New Zealand First.

September 8: The Herald reveals an email that indicates a NZ First auditor had concerns in May about whether an elaborately structured donation to the party should be declared.

The email indicates the donation was of one large sum but had been channelled through eight separate companies in amounts under $10,000 to the Spencer Trust, which was then paid to NZ First.

The Electoral Commission asks NZ First to file amended party donation returns for the three years and their accompanying auditor's report no later than Tuesday, September 30.

September 4: Winston Peters and his lawyer, Peter Williams QC, appear before the privileges committee. Mr Peters does not speak. Mr Williams is told his statement does not fall within its standing orders. He makes a truncated statement.

The committee confirms billionaire Owen Glenn will appear before the committee on September 8. It releases another letter from Mr Glenn in which he says "there is absolutely no double that the request [for a donation] came from Mr Peters".

Act leader Rodney Hide lays a complaint with police over allegations New Zealand First broke the law when it failed to declare donations over $10,000 in 2007.

September 1: Helen Clark says she thinks the SFO tipped off National about its intention to investigate NZ First ahead of John Key's announcement he would not work with Winston Peters unless he came up with "credible explanations" for the allegations against him. National denies this.

Helen Clark confirms that Mr Glenn had told her in February not only that he gave a donation to NZ First, but that Winston Peters had solicited the money.

The SFO seizes the records of the Spencer Trust.

August 2008

August 30: Winston Peters' lawyer Peter Williams QC meets with the Serious Fraud Office and hands over documents he says show donations to the party were used as intended. Rodney Hide calls for the SFO to widen its inquiry to cover all political donations to NZ First in the past 15 years

August 29: Winston Peters describes the allegations against him as "vile, malevolent, evil and wrong". However, after meeting with Mr Peters at a secret location Helen Clark announces he passing her his foreign affairs, racing and associate senior citizens portfolios while the SFO investigates. She says Mr Peters will be reinstated if the inquiry clears him of wrongdoing.

August 28: Prime Minister Helen Clark reveals that Mr Glenn had told her his version of events on February 21 but that Mr Peters had assured her that New Zealand First had not received a donation from the businessman.

The Serious Fraud Office announces it has sufficient information to launch an investigation into the fate of donations to New Zealand First.

August 27:The privileges committee releases letters from Mr Peters and billionaire Owen Glenn. Mr Glenn says Mr Peters solicited a $100,000 donation from him and then thanked him for it in 2006. Mr Peters denies this, saying he thanked Mr Glenn in July 2008 after being told of the donation by his lawyer.

National Party leader John Key says unless Mr Peters could provide a credible explanation for the discrepancies of evidence, he would be he would be unacceptable in a National Government.

August 26:ACT leader Rodney Hide alleges that New Zealand First was paid money by Simunovich Fisheries after Winston Peters had made corruption claims against it.
August 22: The founding director of the Serious Fraud Office says it should be using its special powers to investigate the Winston Peters donations controversy and force documents to be produced.

August 17: The privileges committee begins its first hearings in the inquiry into Owen Glenn's donation to NZ First's legal bill. Winston Peter's lawyer Brian Henry tells the committee he does not bill Mr Peters that his legal fees are "either a donation of my time or fundraised." The committee resolves to invite Owen Glenn to give evidence.

August 7: Parliament's privileges committee sets its terms of references for its inquiry.

August 6: Racing and fishing magnate Philip Vela says that he has no concerns about the donation his company had given to New Zealand First a few years ago. The privileges committee inquiry into Owen Glenn's payment of Mr Peters' legal fees begins.

Mr Peters is repeatedly challenged by Act leader Rodney Hide in Parliament to say whether he received donations from Simunovich Fisheries, after speculation of a donation from the company re-emerged in the Dominion Post newspaper.

August 5: The Speaker orders an investigation into allegations Winston Peters failed to declare party donations on the MPs' register of pecuniary interest. She says Parliament's privileges committee should look into the claims. Mr Peters says he welcomes the opportunity to have the matter dealt with as soon as possible.

July 2008

July 31: The Dominion Post reports it has a deposit slip showing $19,998 was deposited in one or more cheques into the party's coffers in December 1999.

Electoral Commission records for 1999 show NZ First did not declare any donations of more than $10,000, the threshold for disclosure.

July 30: The Serious Fraud Office says it will begin assessing whether an investigation into donations intended for the New Zealand First Party is warranted, following a complaint from Rodney Hide.

July 29: Helen Clark meets with Mr Peters so he can explain the controversy surrounding allegations of covert funding to NZ First. She says she still has confidence in him as Foreign Affairs, Racing and Associate Senior Citizens Minister. Mr Peters describes the whole affair as "a shameful episode of dirty politics".

July 26: At a joint media conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Mr Peters again refuses to answer questions on the "Bob Jones' story".

July 25: Winston Peters angrily denies any wrongdoing in regards to the funding of NZ First. He says media coverage of the party's election funding are "unsubstantiated rubbish". He says he never asked Sir Robert for money and that he was not in charge of the Spencer Trust, which is managed by his brother. Sir Robert says Mr Peters asked him for money on a night out.

July 24: Sir Robert Jones tells Radio New Zealand he made a number of donations to New Zealand First for the 2005 election including a $25,000 donation to the Spencer Trust. New Zealand First deputy leader Peter Brown denies any knowledge of the donation, which was not declared to the Electoral Commission. Sir Robert says he has written to NZ First president Dail Jones to confirm where the money went.

A spokesman for Helen Clark says she "received an assurance from Mr Peters that funding has been conducted lawfully".

July 23: Helen Clark says Mr Peters will not be required to pay back the $100,000 he received from Owen Glenn to pay legal expenses.

"The Cabinet Office advises me that there would be no reason to require the minister to relinquish it, given the considerable public interest in the court case for which that money was paying."

July 21: The Dominion Post reports the Vela family donated $150,000 from six different accounts over four years up to 2003 to New Zealand First but the donations were not declared by the party because they were under $10,000 and did not have to be. ACT leader Rodney Hide lodges a contempt of Parliament complaint with the Speaker over the non-disclosure of the donation.

July 20: Winston Peters' lawyer Brian Henry says he asked Owen Glenn for a donation after another donor did not deliver. Helen Clark says she accepts Mr Peters' statement that he only found out about the donation from his lawyer on July 18. She says the donation to Mr Peters' legal fund did not appear to have broken any rules .

July 19: Peters tells the NZ First convention he did nothing wrong in the Owen Glenn donation row and nothing illegal occurred. He says there is a difference between donating to his legal fund and donating to NZ First.

July 18: Winston Peters says Owen Glenn donated $100,000 towards a legal action he mounted after the 2005 election, but denies the money was given to his party and says he only just found out about it.

July 16: Helen Clark says she has received assurances from Winston Peters that Owen Glenn has not donated to NZ First. She says Mr Glenn's appointment as honorary consul general in Monaco was at best "most unlikely".

July 14 Winston Peters addresses reporters at Auckland Airport before leaving for Fiji. He tells them: " Here's the deal, the editor of the New Zealand Herald and the Herald journalist Audrey Young can see New Zealand First's accounts and talk to our independent auditors but when they find nothing, then to apologise to the public and then resign."

National Leader John Key calls for Helen Clark to investigate whether Mr Peters is telling the truth.

July 12: The Herald reports on a private email from Owen Glenn to his PR representative in New Zealand, Steve Fisher, in which he says he did give New Zealand First a donation.

"Steve - are you saying I should deny giving a donation to NZ First?? When I did?"

Winston Peters says through a spokesman that Mr Glenn had not given the party money - "he did not" - but he refused any other comment.

February 2008

February 28: Mr Peters calls a media conference to deny Owen Glenn has ever given New Zealand First a donation or loan. Peters brings along a "No" sign to reinforce his message. Mr Peters says the sum mentioned by Dail Jones was a consolidation of a series of payments made to the party.

February 24: Winston Peters appears to deny the mystery donation ever existed, refusing to say where it was from. When asked, Mr Peters said: "There's no question ever that any such a thing ever did happen." Asked if that meant "there was no big anonymous donation", Mr Peters said "precisely".

February 21: Owen Glenn and Helen Clark open Auckland University's Business School.

February 20: New Zealand First MP Dail Jones tells the Herald his party received a mystery donation of between $10,000 and $100,000 "probably closer to $100,000" in December 2006. Owen Glenn strongly hints that he was the donor.

The money is said to be part of the $158,000 donated to and returned by the Starship Foundation, the amount the Auditor General found NZ First had unlawfully spent at the 2005 election.

Asked by the Herald via his press secretary whether he knew who the donor was and whether it was Mr Glenn, Winston Peters says "there is no substance to the claims being made". Mr Peters later denies to TVNZ that the party ever received a donation from Mr Glenn.

February 19: Helen Clark confirms that Winston Peters has met with Mr Glenn to discuss the honorary consul role and is considering whether he is needed in the position.

February 18: Owen Glenn dismisses his Cabinet comments as a joke but says he is waiting on Foreign Minister Winston Peters' approval to become New Zealand's honorary consul in Monaco.

February 15: Expatriate businessman and Labour donor Owen Glenn claims Helen Clark tried to lure him back to New Zealand with the offer of a Cabinet job. Helen Clark denies this


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