Labour cash probed

Donghua Liu
Donghua Liu

Labour is bracing for the expected release of an affidavit claiming six-figure donations were made to the party by wealthy businessman Donghua Liu.

A spokesman for Liu told Fairfax this week: "No comment is to be made at this stage.'' 

It is understood the affidavit was being pored over by lawyers today because there was a lack of documentation.

Prime Minister John Key this week referred to rumours about ‘‘hundreds of thousands’’ of dollars in undeclared donations from Liu, but refused to elaborate.

He said he would be ‘‘very amazed’’ if Liu had not donated more than the $15,000 he reportedly paid for a book signed by former Labour leader Helen Clark.

The rumours have been circulating for weeks in the media and in Parliament of much bigger payments by Liu to Labour, including suggestions a sworn affidavit existed.

But no evidence has emerged.

Labour has also heard the rumours, but party secretary Tim Barnett said even the figure of $15,000 for the book was disputed.

There were sales of the book at figures well below that.

Other than big payments from donor Sir Owen Glenn, no other gifts came anywhere near the rumoured six-figure cash donations.

‘‘We have a donation file we’ve gone through and that’s probably about 300-400 pieces of paper, and we’ve checked every name, which is what we’ve said publicly that we’ve done, and we can do no more,’’ Barnett said yesterday.

‘‘We sit here waiting patiently for more information.’’ 

On Thursday Labour leader David Cunliffe won a public display of support as Labour leader, with his former leadership rival Grant Robertson pledging his loyalty. But the party’s MPs were still coming to terms with the shock poll which showed support plunging to 23.2 per cent against 56.5 per cent for National.

Cunliffe conceded he was concerned by the poll but tried to fight back in the House, claiming National was behind the release of a letter he wrote on behalf of Liu, saying it was a smear campaign by National. 

This was despite his earlier denials he had written a letter.

Liu, who was a National party donor, was at the centre of the controversy that led to Maurice Williamson resigning his portfolios after it was revealed he called police about a case of domestic violence against Liu.

Cunliffe has this week been under fire after the release of a letter he wrote to the immigration service for Liu.  

He said yesterday his staff had been unable to find the letter, which was sent in 2003. Manual records were usually not kept for more than three years for privacy reasons. 

An electronic search had not found anything either and it emerged the file was stored under the misspelled name Lui. 

He pointed the finger at National saying he had only been given half an hour’s notice of its release to the media, while Key had a copy of it for several weeks. 

National ministers have denied they have been part of a smear campaign against Cunliffe.

Speaking in Parliament, Acting Prime Minister Bill English said the letter had come to the notice of Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse when Labour was ‘‘on its high horse’’ over Williamson’s links to Liu.

Woodhouse said he had known about the letter since May 9 and had told Key later under the ‘‘no surprises’’ convention.