How much distance will Bridges put between himself and the National party?

Jami-Lee Ross with Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges is distancing himself from the National Party?s handling of a party donation last year, allegedly in excess of $100,000. Quote.

He [Jami-Lee Ross] alleged Mr Bridges had committed electoral fraud by asking him to split up a $100,000 donation from Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun into smaller amounts, so they could be hidden from the Electoral Commission.? End of quote.

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Last October Ross lodged a complaint with the police after claiming that Bridges had contravened the Electoral Act and this week the police handed that matter on to the Serious Fraud Office. Quote.

Mr Ross on Tuesday defended himself from claims that he could face prosecution if it was discovered he had broken up smaller donations to hide them from the Electoral Commission. 

“I have seen in some media stories a claim or a statement that I broke up the $100,000. I did not,” he told media in Wellington. 

“The funds, before it entered National Party accounts, came in in amounts smaller than the $15,000 disclosure threshold.

“The $100,000 donation was offered by the donor directly to Simon [Bridges] on the 21st May and it was after that contact with Simon at a National Party event in the Epsom electorate that he then phoned me and asked me to initiate contact with the donor.  

“The $100,000 was not broken up by me, and any stories claiming that are incorrect.” End of quote.

If Ross knowingly broke the law by asking the donor to split the money up to avoid disclosure, why would he make a police complaint knowing he would be incriminating himself? Quote.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Bridges said the new investigation has absolutely nothing to do with him: “I’m very clear it’s got no involvement for me. We’ll see what the National Party has to say.”

When asked if he has full confidence that the National Party hasn’t done anything wrong, it took him a while to finally say yes. 

“I’ve got nothing that concerns me about any of this… I don’t think National MPs have anything to worry about. We have nothing to hide. We do want to see swift justice here.” End of quote.

The Nats have perfected the art of sticking together: Paula Bennett also stuck to the party line. Quote.

Deputy National leader Paula Bennett was asked on Tuesday if she had seen a donation broken up, to which she replied “no”.

“I know as much as you do.” End of quote.

Bridges is the leader of the National party and he sits on the board, which makes it very unlikely that he was unaware of the alleged sizable donation. Ross claims Bridges was aware of the donation because he asked Bridges: ?How do you want this [donation] handled??

Similarly, due to her ranking in the party, and the alleged size of the donation, it is likely Bennett was also aware of it.

Their top of the heap ranking in the party makes both denials hard to believe.

Bridges may achieve distance from the National party, but not in the way he wants. If the SFO find evidence to support Ross?s allegation, Bridges? distance might be achieved via a swift demotion. Quote.

University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said last year the alleged offence carried a two-year prison sentence and would “lead to automatic expulsion from Parliament”. End of quote.

Serious distance indeed.

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