Two people facing charges after a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation will keep their names suppressed for the time being.
A reserved judgment from Judge Winter was released this evening.
The pair, neither of whom is a minister, sitting MP or party candidate, have been accused of depositing more than $740,000 into foundation accounts.
They appeared in court yesterday where Robert Stewart, on behalf of Herald publisher NZME, Stuff and RNZ, challenged the suppression orders around the case.
The judge reserved his decision until today.
Name suppression was originally granted until they appeared in court again on October 29 but the media applied to challenge the order on the grounds of public interest given the election on October 17.
Charges of obtaining by deception were laid against the two on September 23.
In making his decision, Judge Winter said the release of one of the defendant's names "at this time may inform potential voters for the New Zealand First Party who have not already cast their vote".
"Those who have already done so [voted], would then have been deprived of the names of the two persons charged and the media commentary that will be associated with it.
Judge Winter said publication of one of the defendant's names "at this stage at least six days into the advanced voting period, may unfairly unsettle those who already cast their vote as much as it informs those who have not".
Identification of one of the defendants could then easily identify the other defendant, Judge Winter said.
However, Winter said the SFO had been careful of informing the New Zealand public of the charges "prior to the commencement of the early voting period".
That occurred through a press release.
Judge Winter also said he was satisfied the threshold for extreme hardship caused to one of the defendants and to people connected to that person had been met if the names were released.
In particular, this reflected media scrutiny that would fall onto the defendants due to the general election.
"At this particular time when there will be intense media focus on his name and connection with the general election will mean that [the person] may be unfairly vilified in the minds of potential jurors when [the person] eventually stands trial."
One of the defendants confirmed in their submission that they would be electing to have their case determined by a jury.
They argued the "nature of the charge of dishonesty of this type would be very damaging ... on a personal and professional basis".
The defendant argued they were likely to be pre-judged by the public and it would affect their business dealings.
In February, the Electoral Commission said it believed the foundation "has received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party". The matter was referred to police, and then the SFO.
Charging documents obtained by the Herald yesterday allege the duo deposited $746,881 into two bank accounts, including an account belonging to the New Zealand First Foundation between September 30, 2015 and February 14 this year.
The documents claim the money was deposited with "intent to deceive the donors of the monies, the party secretary of the New Zealand First Party and/or the Electoral Commission".
"The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick or stratagem, whereby party donations for the party were paid into the bank accounts of [suppressed] and the New Zealand First Foundation and not notified to the party secretary, or declared by the party secretary to the Electoral Commission," the documents allege.
"Those undeclared funds thereby became available to [suppressed]/New Zealand First Foundation to use as the defendants saw fit, and were used to pay expenses of the party and to develop a fundraising database for the benefit of the party and [suppressed]."
New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters questioned the timing of the SFO's decision to lay charges, which came a day before overseas voting started and a few days before advanced voting began.
The distinction that the party was "entirely separate" from the foundation would be lost on some, he said.
The foundation's activities came under scrutiny this year over whether it had loaned or provided money to the party for purposes that benefitted the party and its MPs, and if so, whether those had been properly declared.
The party's returns showed that the foundation was listed as having made a loan of $73,000 to NZ First for 2017, $76,622 for 2018 and $44,923 for 2019.
RNZ reported that the foundation collected donations of more than $500,000 from April 2017 to March 2019.
During that period, the foundation reportedly spent more than $425,000 on campaign advertising expenses, political consultants' fees, renting and setting up a campaign HQ in Wellington, and running the party's website.
This followed the resignation of party president Lester Gray last year after he refused to sign the party's 2019 financial documents.
"This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the party any longer," Gray told Stuff at the time.