Winston Peters will not be reinstated as Minister of Foreign Affairs despite his party being cleared of fraud by the Serious Fraud Office.
The SFO finished its investigation yesterday, but raised questions about a new cash gift Mr Peters should have declared and gave information it uncovered to the police, the Auditor-General and the Electoral Commission.
The Prime Minister said though she was pleased New Zealand First had been cleared of fraud, matters relating to its donations controversy were still with other authorities.
She would continue as acting minister for Mr Peters' portfolios.
"We are all seeking a fresh mandate at the general election," Helen Clark said.
Mr Peters refused to answer directly when asked if he believed he should be reinstated, saying he wanted to get on with the campaign.
He has been suspended as a minister since the SFO said on August 28 that it was beginning an investigation.
He was told the office's decision as he was about to make an election campaign speech to 30 elderly people at the Accadia Manor rest home estate in Tauranga.
Mr Peters announced it immediately to them, saying: "The SFO has absolutely done its chips. They've got nothing."
The clearance came on the eve of the campaign launches for Labour and National and as two polls showed the gap between the two parties closing, raising the possibility of NZ First again being the king-maker.
Mr Peters said it was "very good timing", then attacked National leader John Key, who ruled NZ First out as a coalition partner just before the SFO began its investigation.
"Mr Key judged me guilty and my party guilty before hearing the evidence. New Zealand has got to be worried about whether you can trust such a person.
"It should be playing on the mind of the New Zealand people that here's someone who wants to be Prime Minister who is so naive and so inexperienced on a critical question of the law and order of the principle of law he is prepared to abandon it for political advantage. Big mistake."
The SFO said it found a donation used to pay Mr Peters' legal costs was not declared on the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament.
The Weekend Herald understands this relates to the $13,640.37 in legal costs Mr Peters was required to pay National MP David Carter in 2006.
The SFO said the donation was made to the Spencer Trust and paid out from there. It did not name the donor.
SFO director Grant Liddell said he had written to Mr Peters telling him to "determine whether he should file an amended return to the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests".
Mr Liddell has also given the information to Auditor-General Kevin Brady, who audits the returns.
The donation is separate from the $100,000 from billionaire Owen Glenn and $40,000 from the Spencer Trust that Mr Peters has been required to amend the register to show.
Mr Peters said he knew nothing of the donation the SFO was questioning.
"That's impossible. You ring him [Mr Liddell] up and ask him. You ask him what the hell he is saying."
Mr Peters was required to amend his electoral returns after Parliament upheld the privileges committee's finding that he knowingly provided false or misleading information by not declaring the donation from Mr Glenn.
After he did it, Parliament's Deputy Clerk Debra Angus said: "Mr Peters has advised the registrar that there are no other donations or gifts that require any declaration on his part for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 beyond what has been disclosed already."
The SFO said it also found that laws relating to electoral returns might have been breached.
It had found NZ First returns for 2005 and 2007 were inaccurate. The party's election expenses return for 2005 also appears to be incomplete.
The SFO has given information to the police and the Electoral Commission, which are investigating the possible breaches.
The SFO began its investigation to find out if money donated by Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers was spent as intended.
Its decision yesterday showed it did a wider investigation of the Spencer Trust.
Mr Peters said the SFO was incompetent and had a personal grudge against him.
He also attacked Act leader Rodney Hide, who made the original complaint to the SFO, as a "despicable personal attention-seeker" who was asking questions on National's behalf.