Donghua Liu – a little clearer, but still muddy

So, Donghua Liu has clarified some questions regarding his 2007 donations to Labour. Apparently, the “close to $100,000” that the NZ Herald was reporting had been spent on a bottle of wine was in fact the total amount of donations.

That figure includes the $50,000 to $60,000 spent on hosting Rick Barker on a Yangtze River trip, which appears to have been the staff party that Mr Barker rode shotgun on. Although it’s something that Mr Barker should probably have disclosed in the Register of Pecuniary Interests, it seems rather unfair to call a staff party a $50,000 political donation.

If one subtracts the Yangtze River trip from the “close to $100,000”, that leaves between $40,000 to $50,000, which includes a confirmed $2,000 to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club (which of course is not the Labour Party), the bottle(s) of wine purchased at a fundraising auction and anonymous donations to MPs.

A key quote from the Herald’s reporting is Liu’s statement that:

“I did say I made a contribution of close to $100,000 and that is my closing comment in my statement… that is how much I believe I have donated in total to Labour and some of their MPs during their last term in Government.”

That means that unaccounted for $40,000 to $50,000 could have been donated to Labour over a three year period, and could have been a mixture of donations to both central HQ and individual electorate MPs.

Mr Liu’s statement makes no mention of the book signed by Helen Clark, which the Herald’s “unnamed Labour sources” say he apparently purchased for $15,000 at a fundraising auction. If that purchase occurred, that would leave just $25,000 to $35,000 unaccounted for over a three year period. If Liu’s remaining total donations were at the lower end of that spectrum, and were made through anonymous means, such as trusts or through a law firm trust account, it is entirely possible that Labour has not breached any electoral law at all. New Zealand’s electoral laws at the time provided all sorts of ways for anonymous donations to be made.

Of course, we don’t know any further details about how Mr Liu made the remaining donations, whether it was one lump sum or several smaller sums, who they were made to (HQ or electorates), whether they were in fact spread over three years or were all from 2007, and whether the $15,000 purchase of the signed book occurred. The Labour Party therefore remains largely in the dark, unable to confirm or deny anything unless Mr Liu drip feeds more information.

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