Auckland, February 19, 2020
Just like donations to political parties, the justice system should be open and transparent. That is what I believe and have sought.
Until now, however, I have been unable to make a public statement regarding these allegations, despite wanting to do so.
That is because at the end of January, the three people responsible for the donations to the National Party in 2017 and 2018 made an urgent application for suppression of their names and any details that might identify them. I was not aware of their application at the time. I made no application for suppression of my own name or details.
While shocked that I had been targeted by the SFO, I had no intention of hiding away.
I always wanted to make it very clear that as the whistle blower on this deception, it was outrageous that I was then charged and that others were seeking to implicate me, making me their expendable scape goat.
However, I couldn’t speak up, as I needed to respect the right of those three people to seek name suppression. Further, even though I made no application for name suppression, the same protection was extended to me by the Court despite me not wanting that.
I have complied with the court’s orders to date, as is expected of any person in my position. The public could rightly be outraged, if I did not respect the court’s decision, or if I sought to abuse my freedom of speech in the Parliament to circumvent that decision.
Name suppression not sought
However, in later court documents my lawyers have made it clear that I never sought name suppression and that I do not want it. I have therefore proactively sought to have the suppression orders lifted so that I can make this statement.
Unfortunately, I remain constrained at this time in what I can say, as the issue is now before the Court. As much as I would like to provide detail and evidence about what I now know, my lawyers have reiterated to me that these matters need to be tried in Court and that it is not permitted for me, or anyone else, to try and do so in the media. I will say all that I need to say when I am permitted to do so.
But, given what is being said by others, I want everyone to know and understand my position – I have never been involved in any deception to do with donations.
In fact, I was the one that took this concern to the authorities, as you all know.
I felt that I needed to expose the concerns that I had about the donations in 2018 that had been offered to Mr Bridges, in person, at an event that I was not in attendance at.
“Painted as the scapegoat”
While I am yet to see what has been said by other people involved, it is clear that I am now being painted as the scape goat for the donation deception that the National Party, not me, benefitted from. I am being painted as the scape goat because I left the National Party after raising these concerns and because promises made to me by Mr Bridges in his campaign to be leader were not honoured by him.
On the receipt of new and further information, months after donations were received by the National Party, I was concerned that the donations were not made in compliance with the requirements of the Electoral Act. As soon as a I learned this further information, I advised the Party to return the donations.
In October 2018, I notified the authorities of my concerns. This led to the SFO investigation.
My decision to notify the authorities, was not just because I had been the victim of broken promises made to me by Mr Bridges, but because I considered that there was an issue that needed to be openly and honestly addressed for the benefit of the country. I still consider this to be the case.
I was the whistle blower, and as a result, ever since I have been attacked by the party and its supporters for bringing this matter to the attention of the nation. Some seek to make me out as the bad guy. While that may be convenient spin for the party, I will not be the National Party’s fall guy.
I want to emphasise that at the time the donations were made, I was not aware of any conspiracy to defeat the requirements of the Electoral Act.
It was not until later that I had such a concern and I reported the matter to the proper authorities. Since then I have cooperated and said what I know. While I do not know what other connected parties have claimed, I deny that I was involved. I will defend myself and make that clear.
I have no intention of letting those who were involved get away with it or blame me in a way that is for their benefit or the National Party’s benefit. Politics is dirty. I know that now and have been the victim of this. But New Zealand’s politics must never be corrupt.
In Court, I will have the opportunity to defend my position and specifically, the allegations that I was a participant in any deception. But so it is clear, I wasn’t.
When I am permitted to say more and present evidence, I will. It will then be clear who was behind any scheme. But the public statement from Mr Bridges and the party that they had no involvement is simply untrue.
The donations concerned were for the National Party. They were taken and used by the National Party. The donations that led me to blow the whistle were offered to Mr Bridges, not me. They were not for my own political or personal use. They improved Mr Bridges’ position, not mine. I had nothing to gain at all.
To the extent I played a part, that was as asked of me by the Party leader. Any suggestion that I might be behind any deception is simply untrue. The Party, and those who now make this claim, seek to blacken my name in order to avoid accountability for themselves.
I will continue to campaign for greater transparency in our laws around political fundraising. Our democracy belongs to New Zealanders and not agents of foreign states. Our political parties have been feeding off money connected to foreign governments for far too long. It needs to stop.
As much as I want to say more, as you know, I am unable to comment further. The details of the matter will be made public and can be reported on during any future trial. I look forward to that opportunity and I believe that I have the evidence to establish what I say.
I thank everyone for the kindness and compassion that I have been shown and the many messages of support that I continue to receive every day.
Jami-Lee Ross is now an Independent Member of Parliament. Please read related story here.