Cabinet Minister Paula Bennett was yesterday forced to reveal two previously undisclosed letters she wrote to a judge and a Parole Board in support of a violent gang member living in her home.
The Minister of Social Development, claims the letters were sent in "a private capacity" but both letters contain references to her being a member of Parliament.
Bennett told Prime Minister John Key about the letters on Friday following media calls to her office in the wake of Herald on Sunday revelations about her links to Viliami Halaholo.
The convicted criminal, who is the father of Bennett's first grandchild, lived at her previous home in West Auckland's leafy Titirangi while on remand for charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in a vicious gang fight and damaging with intent to steal or extort.
Bennett refused to answer questions about her links to Halaholo.
Key told TV One's Breakfast programme on Monday he had been unaware of Bennett's connection with Halaholo and said it "would have been helpful" had he known.
Yesterday Bennett gave copies of the letters to the media with a statement but refused to answer further questions. She acknowledged that "with the benefit of hindsight" she should have made the Prime Minister aware of the letters after the Herald on Sunday broke the story about Halaholo last weekend. " ... I have apologised to him for my failure to do so."
Key issued a statement saying he was "disappointed" he was not made aware of the letters "a week earlier when I asked Ms Bennett about issues relating to this man".
But he accepted "no deliberate attempt was made to mislead me".
A spokesman for Key later said he had asked Bennett if she had any other "involvement" with Halaholo that was "pertinent for him to know" and was told she did not.
Halaholo was bailed to Bennett's home address between September 2006 and July 2007. He is the partner of Bennett's 21-year-old daughter Ana and father of their 2-year-old daughter Tiara-Lee. Ana Bennett visits Halaholo once a fortnight in Mt Eden Prison where he is serving a 4-year sentence. Halaholo, 23, has a history of violence and was a member of Auckland youth gang the Thugs of Canal.
Bennett wrote one of the letters in June 2007 to an Auckland judge about to sentence Halaholo. In it she told the judge Viliami had been staying with her for the past two years.
"He seemed to get into little bits of trouble when I first met him and I was aware that his past was not squeaky clean, but I certainly saw potential in him," she wrote. The other letter was to the Parole Board last July in which Bennett said she offered her "full support" and that she and her daughter would "like to see Vili home so they can get on with the rest of their lives".