Charges filed by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over a Labour Party donation reveal an alleged illusion was created to conceal the amount and identity of the true donor, while providing them with "freedom from any public scrutiny".
Documents released to media this afternoon by the Auckland District Court show six people - a solicitor, public servant, social worker, and three businesspeople - face 12 charges.
The SFO filed the charges yesterday after an investigation into donations made to the Labour Party in 2017.
Each of the accused is charged with two counts of obtaining by deception over a donation of at least $34,840 for the Labour Party on about March 28, 2017. The SFO alleges the identity of the donor was not disclosed in the party's annual return of party donations.
The group are accused of adopting a "fraudulent device, trick or stratagem" where the donation was paid via an intermediary account before being paid to, and retained by, the Labour Party.
Court papers also allege the group provided five names to "create the illusion" of five donations of sums of less than $15,000 to conceal the amount and identity of the actual donor.
The accused six are also further charged with unlawfully obtaining a benefit for the true donor by allowing them "freedom from any public scrutiny".
The group are due to first appear in court on May 24.
Labour Party general secretary Rob Salmond said in a statement: "The Labour Party has complied with the law."
He added the party has not sought any suppression orders.
"As the matter is before the Courts, we won't be making any further comment," Salmond said.
The SFO said in a statement the defendants are entitled to seek name suppression and the financial crimes and corruption department would not name any of the accused until any name suppression issues have been resolved.
"We note, however, that none of the defendants are sitting MPs or are current or former officials of the Labour Party."
Speaking to reporters today, Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern claimed the numerous SFO probes into political party donations was an indication the current system is not working.
"Let's do something about that," she said, "so let's look at the law".
She noted four New Zealand political parties have received donations which have either been investigated, or questioned by the SFO. They are Labour, National, the NZ First Foundation and the Māori Party.
"That sends a message to us, in the political system, that we should be looking at the way our regime works," Ardern said this afternoon.
"Clearly, [the system] is not currently [working] – so let's do something about that."
In late 2019, the Government said it would ban foreign donations to political parties and candidates and subsequently passed a law outlawing the process.
Despite this, there have been further calls for donation law reforms.