New Zealand First today welcomes the decision of the High Court on October 13th that allows media access to the correspondence between New Zealand First and the Serious Fraud Office, between June and September 2020.
New Zealand First notes that in a press release on 29 September the SFO said “that neither defendant is a Minister, sitting MP, or candidate in the upcoming election (or a member of their staff), or a current member of the New Zealand First party”.
New Zealand First sought transparency to be given by the SFO. This was opposed by the SFO resulting in delays in the material being provided until this morning 14th October 2020.
New Zealand First notes the many criticisms contained in the process adopted by the Serious Fraud Office, and the inconsistent approach as set out in the correspondence.
On 3 June 2020 Cook Morris Quinn, acting on behalf of New Zealand First, informed the SFO that the Directors actions, through her officers, were illegal and in breach of section 21, 22 and 23 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (1990) and that the detention of party personnel was unlawful and therefore arbitrary.
Despite the SFO having been advised in early March 2020 that Mr Pilditch was acting on behalf of New Zealand First, our counsel became aware of the SFO approaching New Zealand First personnel directly on 29 June 2020, at which point our solicitors wrote to the SFO to advise them, once again, that all communications were to be through them.
Notwithstanding the advice that Cook Morris Quinn acted for these individuals, the Director nevertheless pursued direct contact with the individuals concerned, which we can only infer was an effort to circumvent our representation, and our rights in that regard.
New Zealand First counsel catalogued a number of instances that demonstrated the Director showing disregard to the law, fairness, and reasonableness in the exercise of her statutory powers, noting;
- The services of notices on 19 March 2020 constituted both a breach of the requirements of section 9, and an unlawful and therefore unreasonable search and seizure;
- The haste and urgency demonstrated by the Director in compelling people to attend interviews despite difficulties with the availability of counsel;
- The direct contact made with New Zealand First personnel, despite the Director being aware that Cook Morris Quinn acted on their behalf, and the improper and incorrect provision of legal advice concerning the rights of those individuals;
- The failure to respond to our repeated request for an explanation as to the need for urgency relative to the constitutional issues that were raised.
New Zealand First has in every way possible, cooperated fully with the investigation by the SFO and welcomes the decision to allow media access to this correspondence.