Aug 29, 2008

Philip Kitchin Delivers New Blow To Peters' Credibility

This from the Dominion Post

Winston Peters' damaged credibility is in even more doubt as documents reveal that his claim to Parliament that he paid all his Winebox inquiry legal fees is questionable.
Mr Peters has told Parliament that he "had to carry the can" for legal expenses incurred - but The Dominion Post has obtained copies of bills that show taxpayers paid nearly $24,000. The bills show Mr Peters' lawyer, Brian Henry, was paid the money by Parliamentary Service for Winebox legal advice.
The Winebox papers detailed a complex Cook Islands tax scheme used by prominent New Zealand businessmen to reduce tax liabilities.
The bills were paid by the taxpayer-funded agency, which administers parliamentary business, eight months after a commission of inquiry was set up to investigate Mr Peters' allegations that the Serious Fraud Office and Inland Revenue acted unlawfully or incompetently.
They are for services that included "researching into the Winebox", obtaining copies of transcripts of evidence, "consulting re media briefing of the legal position of Sir Ronald Davison [the counsel assisting the Winebox inquiry]", "preparation of media package in respect of events in the House of Representatives", and advice on a Winebox select committee.
Mr Peters answered questions in Parliament on May 10, 2006, about Winebox legal fees.
National MP Tau Henare, a former NZ First MP and caucus colleague of Mr Peters, asked the NZ First leader: "Who paid the legal fees for the Winebox?"
Mr Peters replied: "Who paid for the Winebox inquiry? Yours truly ... I would never have thought Tau Henare would have the temerity to raise that question. Shame on the member. I had to carry the whole can by myself."
However, four bills obtained by The Dominion Post, all dated June 2, 1995, and from Mr Henry to former NZ First staff member Terry Heffernan, suggest Mr Peters appears to have misled Parliament. The bills total nearly $24,000 and were coded as being paid by Parliamentary Service.
Mr Peters said last month that a legal fighting fund was set up in 1991 to pay for his Winebox fees and for other defamation cases he was involved in.
The bills also raise questions about Mr Henry's statement to Parliament's privileges committee, which is investigating a $100,000 donation to Mr Peters' legal fees from billionaire Owen Glenn.
Mr Henry told the committee last week that he eventually received legal aid for his Winebox legal advice under an arrangement with the solicitor-general.
But till he received that legal aid, Mr Henry said his fees were either paid by Mr Peters or through fundraising he did himself.
Mr Henry said he did accept work for Mr Peters as NZ First's leader where the work qualified for payment by Parliamentary Service and that "in the past three years I have been paid in this manner".
The bills do not mention NZ First or Mr Peters and were all sent to Mr Heffernan at "Parliamentary Offices, Wellington".
Mr Heffernan, who is standing as National's candidate in Christchurch's Port Hills electorate, was at the time employed as NZ First's parliamentary executive in the party's office.
When contacted by The Dominion Post, he was reluctant to comment but said in a statement: "If however, I was asked to give evidence on the matter to the privileges committee I would be prepared to front up to help the committee with any relevant recollections."