The Electoral Commission has cleared a Maori Party candidate, whose campaign was accused of bribing voters with online cash credits.
Botany candidate Wetex Kang had complaints laid against his campaign for distributing 'Hong Bao dollars' in red envelopes - used on popular Chinese social media app WeChat - to further his campaign.
A letter has since been sent to Kang by Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright clearing him of wrongdoing.
"The Electoral Commission is satisfied that you have not given any money directly or indirectly to induce an elector to vote for you and therefore concluded that you have not committed the offence of bribery for the purposes of section 216 of the Electoral Act," the letter said.
Kang told the Commission none of the nine envelopes containing cash credits were provided by him in the WeChat group, which the Commission agreed with.
"The person administering your WeChat campaign page posted five envelopes. Three other independent supporters posted a further four. You have advised that the total value of the nine envelopes is $38.25," the letter continued. "We note that you have advised your administrator to cease further distribution of red envelopes and have added promoter statements to your page and campaign posts in accordance with part 6A of the Electoral Act."
The Commission also cleared the page administrator and three supporters of bribery, given the amount involved was small and wouldn't have amounted to convincing a person to vote or refraining from doing so.
But it warned candidates, parties and their supporters against using the red envelopes to promote election advertising in future, which could risk further bribery complaints.
"It could also actually amount to bribery depending on the circumstances, the amounts involved, and the intent to induce.
"The Commission is also concerned that this practice carries risk of supporters breaching the election advertising rules. There is an exemption from these rules to allow free online discussion between individuals, however the exemption does not apply in situations where an individual is making or receiving payment.
"Supporters may unwittingly breach requirements for written authorisation and promoter statements depending on the amounts of money involved and whether payment is linked to the sharing of the post."
Last week, Maori Party president Tuku Morgan called the complaints laid against Kang, a smear.
"It's a smear campaign on the Maori Party. Baseless attack on the party, and on a candidate that has a real chance of taking Botany," Morgan told a press conference, called last Thursday after the Herald revealed the complaint had been laid.
Kang is the Maori Party's first ever Asian candidate, being Malaysian-Chinese. He speaks three different Chinese dialects and understands Malay.
The former pharmacist-turned beekeeper is also responsible for creating the Maori Party's most comprehensive-ever immigration policy which includes community hubs where skilled immigrants live with families in the regions for free, and in return work and pass on their skills to local young people in those regions. He proudly released the policy alongside Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox in July.
In a statement today, Kang said he had been victim of a smear campaign which was "down-right nasty and vicious."
"My family has been affected in ways I cannot describe. My business has been affected because of the nature of the allegation. And this attack could have ended my campaign.
"I've been disadvantaged once as an Asian and twice as a Māori Party candidate."