At least two Government ministers were told an unnamed MP was being investigated before last year's election, but police did not tell Government ministers it was Mike Sabin until November when a media outlet started asking about an investigation into the former MP.
The Herald has learned that before the election Police Minister Anne Tolley and another minister with a related portfolio were told police were looking into an MP.
However, officials did not reveal which MP it was. Current Police Minister Michael Woodhouse was not told it was Mr Sabin until after One News started asking about Mr Sabin on November 25. That was the same day the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, was told and the Prime Minister was told on December 1.
All three ministers have repeatedly refused to say whether they had been briefed or what they had known. Yesterday, Mr Woodhouse refused to confirm whether he was briefed but said he was "absolutely" confident he had handled the issue appropriately.
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It is understood police told ministers they withheld the name of the MP because inquiries were still at an early stage and there was concern about the impact on Mr Sabin's career and reputation if it amounted to nothing. Ministers were eventually told his name under the "no surprises" policy because media had started asking about the case.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush has refused to say whether he briefed ministers on Mr Sabin, but said police had not "dropped the ball" under the no surprises policy. That policy requires Government departments to alert ministers to sensitive or controversial issues.
Parliament will hold its first Question Time of the year today and both the Prime Minister and Police Minister are expected to be asked about their knowledge and handling of Mr Sabin. Mr Key has been criticised for failing to stand Mr Sabin down as chair of the Law and Order Select Committee as soon as he was told about the investigation. Mr Sabin chaired a meeting of that committee two days after Mr Key was told.
Mr Key has defended that, saying he believed it was the right decision based on the information he had at the time.
Early August: Police start making inquiries into then Northland MP Mike Sabin.
Aug/Sept: At least two ministers are told police are looking into an MP.
20 September: Election day.
22 October: Mike Sabin is appointed chair of Law and Order Select Committee.
25 November: TVNZ asks police about Mr Sabin. Police tell Police Minister Michael Woodhouse Mr Sabin is the MP under investigation. Prime Minister's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson also found out that day.
26 November: Labour contacts the Prime Minister's office to say they have heard of the investigation.
21 December: Fairfax reports Mr Sabin is being investigated.
30 January: Mr Sabin resigns from Parliament.