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Hide To Try To Question Peters Again

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Rodney Hide will be back in Parliament today targeting Winston Peters over serious allegations of a payout in return for the New Zealand First leader dropping corruption claims against a fishing company.

Mr Peters could also face trouble on another front with Parliament's privileges committee meeting this morning to discuss a complaint he failed to disclose a $100,000 donation from expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn.

Mr Peters yesterday managed to partially silence Mr Hide by telling Speaker Margaret Wilson the allegations involved issues in a defamation action he had brought against media organisations, and were sub judice.

But the ACT Party leader still managed to disclose some of them before Ms Wilson ordered him to leave the debating chamber for disobeying her order to stay away from court case issues.

She said she would look at those issues overnight, because Mr Hide and National Party MPs said they had nothing to do with the defamation action.

Speaking under privilege, Mr Hide told Parliament:

* That a businessman had told The Dominion Post newspaper he was one of several people Simunovich Fisheries boss Peter Simunovich had given cheques of $9999 in 2002 to pass on to NZ First in return for Mr Peters shutting up about allegations of wrongdoing by the company. Mr Hide said the businessman had said "sure enough, within a couple of weeks Winston Peters did shut up";

* That a statement from the businessman, who was now afraid for his safety, had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO);

* That the businessman claimed Mr Peters had gone to meet Mr Simunovich to discuss evidence of corruption and had stated that for a payment of $50,000 "we would just slowly get rid of it"; and

* That the businessman had kept bank records.

The background to these allegations is that in 2003 Simunovich Fisheries was involved in a parliamentary inquiry into the allocation of quota for scampi.

Around that time, Mr Peters accused the company of corrupt practice but later recanted, saying the claims did not stand up to scrutiny.

The committee holding the inquiry subsequently cleared the company.

In 2004, when Mr Peters was asked if Simunovich Fisheries had donated any money to NZ First he replied: "I'm saying no." But when he was again asked about this, in Parliament earlier this month, he refused to repeat the denial.

Yesterday he said Mr Hide's allegations were baseless, and went on to indicate NZ First received cheques but did not cash them.

"If there was a subsequent series of cheques, paid some substantial time later, despite the fact that there was as inquiry in this house that concerned a business ... those cheques were never cashed," he said.

The SFO is considering whether to investigate undeclared donations to NZ First, including a $25,000 cheque from Sir Robert Jones which was paid into a mysterious fund called the Spencer Trust.

Parliament's privileges committee is investigating the $100,000 cheque from Mr Glenn which was used to pay the legal fees of Mr Peters' lawyer, Brian Henry.

Mr Peters and Mr Henry have told the committee that the cheque was paid to Mr Henry and because he never billed Mr Peters for his legal work, it could not be considered a donation to him.

However, Mr Glenn has provided a written statement to the committee outlining his understanding of event. The committee is expected to consider that in a closed-door meeting this morning.

Today Mr Hide will also have another opportunity to ask questions -- if Ms Wilson lets him -- and there is also the Wednesday general debate when MPs can raise anything they like, as long as they stay within the rules.

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