Juan Zhang

National reprises Father Ted: “It was just resting in the account”

National and in particular Jami-Lee Ross and John Key have been busted in a donation saga.

And the best they can come up with is a version of the Father Ted defence…”the money was just resting in my account”.

As Father Dougal MacQuire says…”a good long rest”.

Electoral returns out next week will confirm that a National Party MP received $25,000 from a controversial businessman after Prime Minister John Key had a private dinner with him – at the man’s home.

The PM has always maintained that he met Donghua Liu at a National Party fundraiser but would never say where. Today, the Weekend Herald can reveal that the fundraiser was actually a private dinner at Mr Liu’s $4.75 million home in Remuera, where a smiling Mr Key and Jami-Lee Ross, the MP for Botany, were photographed alongside Mr Liu and his young family.

Afterwards, Mr Liu donated $25,000 that same month to Mr Ross’ election campaign. But the following year, Mr Liu became a political embarrassment for the Government after a Herald investigation revealed the impact of the property developer’s links to the National Party.

Maurice Williamson was forced to resign as a minister when the Herald revealed he had called police after Mr Liu was arrested on domestic violence charges and told them Mr Liu was a big investor in New Zealand.

Mr Key said then that Mr Williamson had “crossed the line”.

Shortly after the election, Mr Ross refunded the large donation from Mr Liu’s company – 15 months after it was given. Mr Ross has since disclosed the donation in candidate returns for the 2014 election due to be released by the Electoral Commission next week.

Mr Liu is upset that Mr Ross refunded the $25,000 cheque, which he regarded as a “slap in the face”.

The 53-year-old pleaded guilty to the domestic violence charges in April last year, but was in the Auckland District Court this week seeking to withdraw those admissions. He was successful and the case is likely to now head to trial.

Outside court, he told the Herald he gave $25,000 to Mr Ross through the “Botany Cabinet Club” and “subsequently this amount was refunded”.

“It was very strange. The refund was sent to my lawyer, I wasn’t told about it in person.”

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Is Barker now suffering from recovered memory syndrome?

Donghua Liu's partner Juan Zhang and Rick Barker at a Labour fundraising auction in 2007.

Donghua Liu’s partner Juan Zhang and Rick Barker at a Labour fundraising auction in 2007.

On June 18 Rick Barker was having a terrible time remembering Donghua Liu:

Mr Barker, now a regional councillor in Hawkes Bay, said he was a guest of Liu at the dinner in Chongqing and visited his cement company while on holiday in China. But he had not known Liu was a Labour donor and he was not in China on official business as a minister.

“I went to China to catch up with some friends of mine, see some sights … and I made a side trip to Chongqing – I had not been to the city before.

“I was in the city a short time. Mr Liu showed me his business and that night, I attended a dinner which seemed to be a dinner he had put on for all his staff.”

Mr Barker could not remember how he came to be invited to visit Liu in Chongqing.

He said it was “probable” he also had dinner with Liu in New Zealand.

“I am trying to recall events of over seven years ago, so it’s a little challenging.

“But it can’t have been a regular event, because if it was I would recall that. In fact, my contact with Liu fell away quite quickly.”

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A book and now a bottle of wine, what else has Donghua Liu donated to Labour that is undeclared

The rumours of the expensive bottle of wine bought by Donghua Liu appear to be true with a photograph surfacing of a beaming Rick Barker handing over the bottle to Juan Zhang the partner of Donghua Liu.

We don’t yet know how much he donated for the wine, but it is looking increasingly like Labour has filed false donations returns…for at least two items.

A Labour Cabinet Minister presented a bottle of wine to the partner of businessman Donghua Liu at a fundraiser for the party.

The Herald has obtained a photograph of Rick Barker with Juan Zhang, who has two children with Liu, after he won an auction for the bottle at an Auckland restaurant in June 2007.

It is not known how much Liu paid for the wine – believed to be signed by then-Prime Minister Helen Clark – and Mr Barker said he presented auction prizes several times at Labour fundraisers.

He was the Minister for Internal Affairs at the time, and visited Liu in his hometown of Chongqing in China earlier that year, although he did not know Liu was a donor to Labour.

Two sources have told the Herald that Liu paid $15,000 at an auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark.

Labour general secretary Tim Barnett said a check of the party’s records showed no donation from Liu under his name.

Could Labour now face prosecution the same way John Banks was prosecuted…for filing false donations.

The amount paid for that bottle of wine is reported to be high 5 figures.

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