Sep 22, 2008

Meurant Speaks (Writes) Up

The Dominion Post's Phil Kitchin takes the Winston Peters' scandal to a new level today with the news that former NZ First staffer Ross Meurant has made a written statement to the Dominion Post. Meurant says that he is willing to speak to the SFO.

Mr Meurant was NZ First's donations bagman from 1999 to 2004, and collected substantial donations from the Vela family, high-powered fishing and racing operators.
Those donations and a $25,000 donation from Sir Robert Jones to the formerly secretive Spencer Trust are under scrutiny by the SFO inquiry into Mr Peters.
In a written statement to The Dominion Post, Mr Meurant said he was breaking his silence "to refute categorically any innuendo that I am avoiding the SFO to protect Winston Peters and/or fish industry magnates" he was associated with.
The former National Party MP and police inspector - who was second in charge of the Red Squad during the 1981 Springbok tour - also alleges he received a "menacing threat" by a "powerful fishing industry figure" while advising Mr Peters.
Mr Meurant resigned from his advisory role when it was revealed he was in a business relationship with Simunovich Fisheries while advising Mr Peters for a 2003 parliamentary select committee inquiry into scampi quota allocation.
His statement appears to have been prompted by ACT leader Rodney Hide's statement on Saturday that the SFO inquiry would not be credible if Mr Meurant was not interviewed.
He said Mr Meurant was "pivotal to any investigation of donations, particularly from the Velas and fishing and racing industries".
Mr Meurant said he was only speaking about the affair because "Mr Hide and you have unnecessarily dragged me into the debate and by innuendo will cause some to question my integrity".
He said he had not been avoiding the SFO but had been in Morocco and Eastern Europe on business and to comply with his tax status.
"When I return to New Zealand I will meet with the SFO if they wish to speak to me, but there will be no public discourse by me should that event transpire."

This is also really interesting. Now why did Winston fail to make good on his pledge to root out corruption in the fish industry?????

if the ACT leader was "really interested in corrupt behaviour in the fishing industry", he should focus on a submission Mr Meurant had prepared for Mr Peters during the scampi inquiry.
The submission alleged corruption and mismanagement occurred as hoki quota was introduced, and cost New Zealand "conservatively $1 billion", Mr Meurant said.
"During preparation of the document I received a direct and menacing threat from a powerful fish industry figure: `I'm warning you. Leave hoki alone'," Mr Meurant alleged the person said.
He was disappointed that in spite of Mr Peters "promising" to "root out corruption in the fish industry" when he tabled the document, Mr Peters "appears to have failed to make good this pledge".
He said Mr Hide had access to the "damning submission" for five years but had done nothing about it.
"Which may put into perspective this burst of enthusiasm just before elections."
Mr Hide said yesterday he believed Mr Meurant's testimony would be so significant that the SFO should "fly to see him if tax reasons are slowing him from coming back".
"This is the best news yet," Mr Hide said.