Inquiry papers show how SFO boss’ actions overshadowed crime stats.

Former Justice Minister Judith Collins described a champagne stunt by fraud watchdog Adam Feeley as an "utter disaster" that threatened to overshadow the Government at a crucial time, newly released documents show.

They also reveal that Mr Feeley believed Ms Collins had overreacted when the then Serious Fraud Office boss was found to have celebrated charges against Bridgecorp with champagne taken from its offices.

An inquiry by High Court judge Lester Chisholm, which published its report in November, found no evidence that Ms Collins had attempted to undermine Mr Feeley when she was Police Minister in 2011.

Transcripts of interviews with 13 witnesses, including Ms Collins, Mr Feeley, bloggers Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers and lobbyist Carrick Graham have been released to the Herald under the Official Information Act.

Advertisement

Ms Collins previously said she was "disappointed" at Mr Feeley over the champagne story, which came to light in September 2011. She told the inquiry his actions were a "disaster" because they emerged two days before an important PR release on crime statistics.

"My crime stats, I say with absolutely no modesty whatsoever, were the best crime stats we had ever had. It was a really, really good news story.

"It was my shining glory, so the last thing we needed was leaks out of the Serious Fraud Office talking about champagne being used that wasn't actually owned by the person who was using it. It was a disaster."

Mr Feeley told the inquiry his relationship with Ms Collins had always been cordial with the exception of the time the story of the champagne broke. He believed the story was "a beat-up", a view he believed was backed by Prime Minister John Key and Bill English who had commented on it.

"In my opinion, the conduct of the minister ... was an overreaction."

Mr Feeley was given the impression that Ms Collins did not want to talk to him when he contacted her office about it. He was also frustrated her referral of the issue to the State Services Commission was depicted in the media as an employment investigation. He said he was aware former staff members had leaked to the media, but began to suspect a wider involvement by other people "in what I perceived to be a campaign against me and the SFO".

He was "surprised" when he met Ms Collins after the commission reported back and she was friendly and appeared willing to put it behind her.

They had not discussed it again after that point.

The inquiry concluded that Slater had exaggerated or made up a claim that Ms Collins had been "gunning" for Mr Feeley.

Chisholm inquiry - key players

•Judith Collins (former Police, Justice Minister):

Resigned as a minister after an email appeared to show she was "gunning" for SFO boss Adam Feeley. Later cleared of inappropriate conduct but not returned to Cabinet.

•Adam Feeley (former SFO CEO): Investigated by State Services Commission after celebrating charges against Rod Petricevic by drinking champagne taken from Bridgecorp's offices.

•Cameron Slater (Whale Oil blogger): A friend of Collins, he claimed she was "gunning" for Feeley while she was Police Minister, but later admitted to the inquiry that his comment may have been over-blown.

•Carrick Graham (lobbyist): Paid blogger Cathy Odgers (Cactus Kate) to counter negative media attention for Hanover boss Mark Hotchin, whom the SFO was investigating. Ms Odgers used Slater's blog to get a wider audience for the campaign.

•Anita Killeen (former SFO staffer): Leaked damaging information about Feeley. Later pleaded guilty to forging an email which appeared to be sent by Feeley. She was discharged without conviction.