Peters could hang on until election

Winston Peters could hold his ministerial warrant through to the election.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today she would wait for the outcome of two inquiries into donations to his New Zealand First party before deciding whether to sack him.

Mr Peters has stood down from his portfolios while the Serious Fraud Office carries out its investigation, and Parliament's privileges committee is conducting a separate inquiry.

The privileges committee is expected to report on September 23 but there is no deadline for the SFO.

"I'm waiting to hear from the privileges committee, I'm also waiting to hear from the Serious Fraud Office," Miss Clark told reporters.

"There are a number of processes going on and they are far from being exhausted." The police are also investigating an undeclared donation to NZ First.

The National Party has said it will not have anything to do with Mr Peters or his party after the election and has been calling on Miss Clark to sack him.

She said earlier this week there would need to be "devastating" evidence laid against him before she removed his warrant, and today she said that had not happened.

The committee yesterday heard evidence from Mr Peters' lawyer, Brian Henry, about the $100,000 donation from billionaire Owen Glenn.

It was paid to Mr Henry in December 2005 to cover fees for legal work he had done for Mr Peters.

Mr Glenn has told the committee Mr Peters asked for it, but Mr Peters denies that and says he did not know anything about it until July this year.

Miss Clark does not sit on the committee but her deputy Michael Cullen does, as well as senior cabinet minister Lianne Dalziel.

Miss Clark said she consulted them after yesterday's hearing.

"Their strong advice was to let the process continue," she said.

"They say the conflict of evidence is there, as it has been all the way through." The committee does not intend calling any more witnesses and is due to hold a closed door meeting tomorrow to discuss the donation and whether it should have been declared.

In an odd twist today, Mr Peters wrote to the committee asking it to hold the meeting in public.

It is understood fresh evidence has been produced, and that it could have come from the SFO.

Committee chairman Simon Power would not comment.

"What is going to occur tomorrow is a matter for the committee to decide," he told NZPA.

 

 

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