Unfortunately the NBR story is in the paid section of the paper, to which we do not subscribe. But it contains a revealing quote from Winston Peters and his lawyer Brian Henry; check this out:
Mr Henry said he was unaware of the other charities who received $78,000 from New Zealand First.
"I never knew what was done there. That's something you'd have to ask [Mr Peters] about. I think he regards it as done and dusted and closed."
Mr Peters said the eight other charities were all paid but declined to reveal which organisations received donations. "I am not going to give this information over." he said.
"Why are you calling me about this nine days before an election? I think it's a disgrace."
Unfortunately for Winston Peters, there are many other people who think that it's a disgrace too, and we are amongst that number. It's a disgrace that NZ First still has not repaid THE TAXPAYER the $158,000 that the Auditor-General found had been used illegally. It's a disgrace that Winston Peters misled Parliament over the Owen Glenn donation. It's a disgrace that Winston Peters still refuses to disclose who NZ First made donations to, supposedly in lieu of repaying the taxpayer.
But the biggest disgrace of all is that the $78,000 supposedly donated to assist Susan Couch, the innocent victim of a horrific crime lies dormant, and that Winston Peters blusters and obfuscates when questioned about it.
The NZ First Party mis-spent $158,000 of taxpayer funds at the 2005 election. Winston Peters obfuscated, mis-spoke and misled the public over this issue. He tried to make a donation to Starship Hospital in lieu of repayment, but Starship sensibly told NZ First that it didn't want Winston's filthy lucre.
The old fox then made a number of charity donations, without disclosing amounts or charities. However one charity did become public knowledge; the Susan Couch - Crime Victims Charitable Trust. NZ First made a donation of $78,000 to this trust.
Susan Couch was the sole survivor of the Mt Wellington RSA robbery in 2001 where three of her co-workers were murdered by William Bell. She suffered massive injuries, from which she has only partially recovered. If anyone is a victim of crime, it is Susan Couch. As recently as June 2010, David "Happy Feet" Farrar blogged about her housing plight.
Has Susan Couch benefitted from the trust established in her name? The answer to that would appear to be a resounding "no". The trust has just filed its annual return to the Charities Commission, and although the trust has assets in endowment funds of $85,495, it only made grants of $1151 in the year ended 31 March 2011. Does New Zealand have that few victims of crime?
Or is there another answer? Was this simply a cynical ploy by Winston Peters and NZ First to deflect attention away from their illegal electioneering? Given the track record of the man involved, nothing would surprise. Don't forget; one of the last acts of Winston Peters' parliamentary career was to sit in the House whilst the 48th Parliament debated and passed a motion to censure him for "knowingly providing false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests" in September 2008, shortly before the House rose for the 2008 election, when Peters and his party were swept from the corridors of power.
We make no apologies for our cynicism with regard to Winston Peters. We sincerely hope that NZ First is not re-elected on 26 November 2011. And above all, we hope that the trust established in the name of Susan Couch, a victim of a heinous crime actually provides some financial support to the woman after whom it is named. For a substantial amount of money to sit idle whilst a victim continues to battle every day with life is an absolute travesty of justice.