Maurice Williamson has resigned, following news that he called police in December 2013 to discuss the arrest of Donghua Liu on assault charges. (You may recall Mr Liu from this post, following news that Mr Williamson and Nathan Guy granting citizenship to Mr Liu against the advice of the DIA, after which Mr Liu donated significant funds to the National party).
Mr Williamson has said:
“When I made inquiries with associates, it became clear that there was confusion about whether a prosecution would proceed. I offered to call police and clarify the matter.”
However, the officer who handled Mr Williamson’s inquiry, Inspector Gary Davey, said the following in an email his colleagues:
“He started by saying that in no way was he looking to interfere with the process, he just wanted to make sure somebody had reviewed the matter to ensure we were on solid ground as Mr Liu is investing a lot of money in New Zealand.” [Emphasis added]
Let’s get this straight. A Minister who rubber stamped Mr Liu’s citizenship against official advice (with Mr Liu then donating $22,000 to the National party via his company, Roncon Pacific Hotel Management), calls police when Mr Liu is arrested, and let’s it drop into the conversation that somebody needed to review the matter because “Mr Liu is investing a lot of money in New Zealand”.
That’s a hell of a statement to make if you’re “in no way looking to interfere with the process”. Police make their own decisions about whether to lay charges and whether to proceed to prosecution with those charges. One of the factors that should certainly not be taken into account when police make such decisions is whether that person is splashing around a lot of money.
One can be charitable to Mr Williamson and assume that it was just something that slipped out accidentally; that he honestly had no intention of trying to influence police decision making. However, Mr Williamson’s words had enough of an effect for them to be mentioned in Inspector Davey’s email to his colleagues, and Willimson’s intervention certainly resulted in a police review of the matter (even if – and full credit to police – they pressed ahead with the charge anyway, and have now secured a guilty plea).
Whatever Mr Williamson’s intentions, this is bad news for the National party. Just as it seemed that the Judith Collins saga had died a death in the public mind, along comes a new allegation of corruption against another government minister. The narrative that money buys you ministerial influence gains another thread.
Whether it’s good news for Labour is a different story. Sure, it gives them a new attack line against the government, but it blunts the extensive coverage they had been getting due to their new “Kiwisaver as a monetary policy tool” policy. David Parker won’t be best pleased that all of the political journos will now switch focus to Mr Williamson’s political corpse.