Judith Collins inquiry details due Monday

IAIN RENNIE: State Services Commissioner.
IAIN RENNIE: State Services Commissioner.

Prime Minister John Key hopes to release details tomorrow of an inquiry into allegations Judith Collins was involved in attempts to undermine the Serious Fraud Office boss.

Collins was forced to resign as a minister yesterday over an email, released by Key, suggesting she was involved in a campaign against former SFO boss Adam Feeley along with with blogger Cameron Slater and others.

Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail in Auckland this afternoon, Key said his office had not been alerted to any other allegations related to Collins.

As far as he was awarethe email he released yesterday was the only one his office was given.

He was still getting advice on how an inquiry might look, but expected to be able to release some details tomorrow.

Key rejected Labour leader David Cunliffe's claims that evidence held within Collins' office would not be adequately protected ahead of the inquiry.

He said it would be "an amazing claim," and one without basis, to suggest emails and documents would be shredded before investigators got to them.

"If I thought that was happening I'd be dealing with it directly myself. There's absolutely no claims to make, it's a hypothetical example and you can't make that."

"They're making claims they've got no basis to make. Again, they're the sort of wild accusations people make. Those things are backed up in Parliament, [Collins'] a thoroughly professional person.

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Slater has made a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner over Key releasing his email but the PM said he was comfortable that the information should be in the public domain.

"It's about accountability. I think if I'd said the Justice Minister's resigned but I'm not going to give you the information why, we would have spent lots and lots of days talking about the rational for that.

"It's much better to put it in the public domain, I'm confident we've taken the right steps,'' he said.

Further emails, released to Fairfax Media appear to show former Hanover Finance director Mark Hotchin secretly paid bloggers Slater and Cathy Odgers to write attack posts undermining the Feely, the SFO and the Financial Markets Authority, who were probing his collapsed Hanover in 2011 and 2012.

The emails indicate the campaign was orchestrated by Hotchin's then spokesman Carrick Graham, a PR consultant and tobacco lobbyist.

It is believed Odgers (known by the blog name Cactus Kate) went through her own emails and found some that could be seen as implicating Collins. That correspondence then found its way to a Beehive staffer on Friday and on to the PM.
Key would not be drawn this afternoon on Hotchin's involvement in any emails.  

"It's nothing to do with the Government other than the fact that we've had a minister that was mentioned in an email as potentially playing a role with a chief executive, that would need to be fully investigated,'' he said.

He repeated that there was no evidence yet, to suggest Collins' had acted inappropriately.  

"She's utterly refuted it, but as you know, she's recently resigned [as a minister] and there'll be a full inquiry into that, but in terms of anything else, it's not a matter for the National Party."

Responding to Cunliffe's claims there was corruption within the Government, Key said would voters would be able to see the Labour leader's motivation.  

"What he's trying to do is create a political smear and a political picture for his own benefit. And what I'm doing is dealing with the facts.

"On the basis of an email, I've confronted my minister, and made sure absolutely that there's a full inquiry so that we get to the bottom of that," he said.

The PM would not comment on speculation that more emails would be released in the near future.

"I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals, I'll deal with every piece of information that comes along.

"If there's any other information, I'll deal with that. But in the end, I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals, rumours or innuendo and no one would expect me to do that."

Hanover investor Tom Brosnahan said the allegations didn't surprise him one bit, saying 'there's been some skulduggery going on''.

He said a formal inquiry into the matter would give him and other investors the closure they needed.

Brosnahan lost a "substantial amount" and said he had had "to kiss it all goodbye. I'm still boiling frankly."

He said he could only hold his breath and wait to see what came out of it. "I'm just trying to absorb it all.''
Fellow investor Sydney Jordan lost $200,000 which he had invested in Hanover and related companies in early 2007. He said he was paid back about $9000 of that debt.

Jordan was today getting his head around the allegations and coming to terms with them, but he said it did not reflect well on Hotchin.

He said he made a mistake investing with Hanover but had been impressed with Hotchin and his business partners being so young and doing so well.

Jordan has had to downsize his property to make up for the money he lost when Hanover collapsed.

The hacker behind the Dirty Politics emails says the he didn't release yesterday's email  but that it justified his actions.

''This isn't just about party politics. This is a network of politically-connected individuals who launder political and media influence for money, power and personal revenge. I hope it's clear now... why I thought it was justified to expose them in the way that I did. The sacking of Judith Collins is a good start,'' Rawshark said this morning.

Hanover and its sister, United Finance, owned by Hotchin and business partner Eric Watson, collapsed in July 2008 owing $553 million to 17,630 investors.

Little of that money has been recovered and Hanover has been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Markets Authority.

No charges were laid by the SFO. In 2012 the FMA sued Hanover's directors and promoters, including Hotchin and Watson, alleging they made false statements to investors. The civil case is due in court next year.

''It is still not appropriate for us to comment when the case it still before the courts,'' spokesman Andrew Park said today.
The SFO said last week that added social media played no part in its decisions to investigate or prosecute.

It did not responded today to questions asking if it would review or re-open its Hanover investigation.