Over on Stuff, Grant Fleming has the story of the allegations against Winston Peters, and they are as serious as any allegations against a Member of Parliament in the 35+ years that I've been following politics - read this:
ACT leader Rodney Hide has made explosive allegations that New Zealand First was paid off by Simunovich Fisheries to stop leader Winston Peters making corruption claims against it.
The allegations, made under parliamentary privilege, revolve around Simunovich Fisheries, which was at the centre of a 2003 parliamentary committee inquiry into the allocation of quota for a crustacean called scampi.
Around the time Mr Peters accused the company of corrupt behaviour, but he later recanted, saying the claims did not stand up to scrutiny. The committee subsequently cleared Simunovich of wrongdoing.
In 2004 when Mr Peters was asked if Simunovich Fisheries had donated any money to NZ First he replied: "I'm saying no". But this month he refused to repeat the denial in Parliament.
Mr Hide's allegations, included in questions to Prime Minister Helen Clark on the Government's stance on corruption, included:
- that a businessmen had told The Dominion Post newspaper he was one of several people Simunovich boss Peter Simunovich had given cheques of $9999 in 2002 to pass on to NZ First in return for Mr Peters stopping allegations of wrongdoing by Simunovich Fisheries and he had said that "sure enough within a couple of weeks Winston Peters did shut up";
- that a statement from the businessman, who was now afraid for his safety, had been passed on to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO);
- that the businessman claimed Mr Peters had gone to meet Mr Simunovich to discuss the evidence of corruption and had stated that for a payment of $50,000 "we would just slowly get rid of it";
- that the businessman had kept the bank records.
All of this is now in Hansard for eternity. Allegations that New Zealand's most controversial poltician since Sir Robert Muldoon accepted money to "shut up" on allegations of corruption before a Select Committee inquiry. Allegations that one of New Zealand's most senior politicians withheld information from a Select Committee inquiry. Allegations that the Prime Minister seems prepared to overlook for political reasons, relying on the word of the Rt Hon Member in question. Doubtless, the Prime Minister's Court of Public Opinion will judge this matter, the sooner the better.