Li’l Simon Bridges is a bit huffy and seemly overly sensitive about National’s Chinese donor problem. He was on Magic Talk with Peter Williams yesterday morning, busily defaming this site and accusing The BFD of running a conspiracy theory about his involvement in the dodgy donations:

Simon Bridges has fired up over “conspiracy theory nonsense” in a debate over his proximity to the Chinese businessman charged over a donation to the National Party. 

Newshub revealed last week that Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun is one of four people charged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in January over donations to the National Party – their identities made public last week after name suppression was lifted.

Despite Bridges not facing SFO charges, nor any National MP or board member, Magic Talk’s Peter Williams questioned “how well” the Opposition leader knows Zhang Yikun, after he donated $100,050 to the National Party in 2018.

“You must have known he was going to make donations to the National Party,” Williams told Bridges on Monday, referring to a fundraising dinner the National leader attended with Zhang Yikun in May 2018.

“There is nothing there that is illegal,” Bridges replied. “I think you’ve got to be very careful when making these claims about what you’re saying.”

Following a heated debate Bridges fired up at Williams, telling him: “We could do this every single week because you’ve got nothing and you’re not going to have anything because there is nothing.

“If you want to read BFD and excite yourself every week Peter, with this kind of conspiracy theory nonsense, good for you mate.”

Touchy. Must have hit a nerve. He’s wrong of course and is also lying about his involvement with the donors. Bridges said at the start in that audio that he met Zhang Yikun at one dinner. He met him the very next week at the Goldsmith event, so he lied about that from the get go.

The BFD.

As for proximity to the donor, well there is his private dinner with Yikun, then a week after that they chatted together about the donation at a fundraising function hosted by Paul Goldsmith. Plus he knows they have good wine. On top of that, there are multiple photographs of him with Yikun. So, those are facts and not some conspiracy theory at all.

So, his proximity to Yikun is actually very close, something Fran O’Sullivan has outlined:

…there is sufficient information in the public domain to make both Bridges and the party highly uncomfortable.

A trawl through recent history should suffice.

First, Jami-Lee Ross — who does face charges — was elected by the National caucus to be chief whip to two successive prime ministers, including Bridges.

Second, Bridges was clearly aware that Ross was to all intents and purposes acting as a National Party bagman, pimping his leader out to influential people — including Yikun Zhang — to effectively warm “the sale” that Ross would bring home.

Third, the tape released by Ross indicates the former whip raised donation splitting directly with Bridges when it came to the $100,000 which was then under discussion from a Chinese organisation.

Fourth, it was mentioned in their taped conversation that Colin Zheng (also charged, as is Joe Zheng) was a possible candidate for the party. This was read at the time as implying list positions were for sale.

Fifth, the pair discussed whether the $100,000 should stay in the Botany account and talked about how it could be used for a social media campaign.

What I am underlining here is that Bridges’ attempts to dissociate himself and National from what has gone down won’t wash.

A Newspaper

The link to Colin Zheng is also rather curious because a list spot is not something a whip has any sway over. That is the purview of the leader and also the board, which has both Peter Goodfellow and Bridges sitting on it, and at one time also included Jami-Lee Ross. It seems Colin was also courting Labour.

Then there is Joe Zheng, who by all accounts is not the political one of the three, nor is he a front person for the Chao Shan Association. He is connected, but only as Colin’s brother. He’s very shy and steers away from the politics and association business.

I find it extremely hard to believe he would:

  1. Attend a Labour function
  2. Buy a piece of art, and
  3. Have a lazy $10k laying around to buy a piece of art for a political party.

It’s far more likely Joe was given the $10k to buy the art.

Fran O’Sullivan continues:

But what if it is not the Chinese businesspeople who have allegedly tried to suborn the National Party by splitting donations to ensure so-called “influence buying” remains hidden?

What if it is the National Party — which finds it useful to keep the extent of its major Chinese donations hiddenwhich is in reality suborning donors to split donations to sit under the $15,000 mark so the party doesn’t have to answer questions about just how many “red envelopes” it has pulled into its election coffers at a time of heightened sensitivity over Chinese links?

And, what if the source of the donations was offshore and can be traced back to China? Then National will be in the gun for failing to properly declare that the donations, in fact, came from China, which is a long way from being pretty legal; in fact, it’s very illegal.

Here is the bit that should put fear into the National hierarchy, and indeed their caucus:

This intriguing “chicken and egg” scenario has now been put on the agenda by the Chinese businessmen’s lawyers, who say the trio were “urged to follow a process” when it came to donations.

A statement from their public relations firm said, “Our clients are fully aware of the public interest in this case and the need to respect the integrity of the New Zealand electoral system.”

Their legal counsel, John Katz QC, Paul Dacre QC and Rosemary Thomson, said they had asked for name suppression to be lifted and for the process surrounding the charges to be open and transparent.

“Our clients are proud New Zealanders and philanthropists. They were urged to follow a process and are now deeply disappointed at being caught up in a donations fiasco.

“They have supported numerous community groups over many years through fundraising activities and donations, including donating to many political parties and campaigns.

“Our clients believe they are casualties of the turmoil created through mud-slinging during the high-profile fallout following Jami-Lee Ross’ revelations and allegations about the National Party and will be defending the charges against them.”

A Newspaper

The defence is going to require Simon Bridges and every other National MP who has consorted with these Chinese, plus the President of the party Peter Goodfellow, to be lined up in court and shown inconvenient photos and affidavits from witnesses as to what was discussed and arranged, and the story will play out for weeks on end.

Fran O’Sullivan is pretty well informed on matters. This is not going to end remotely well for anyone, or as is Bridges’ case, who is intimately involved with the Chinese donors. It most certainly is not a conspiracy theory.

Li’l Simon Bridges really needs to start telling the truth about his involvement or the facts are going to run him down. He knows his tiny little hands were all over the donations and is just trying to brazen it out.

One thing he cannot do is distance himself from the cash National trousered and that is still sitting in their accounts two years later. And that is the tip of the iceberg, because for all of National’s donations that have been declared, in the millions, about a third of that washed through Botany. The board knows this, Peter Goodfellow knows this, John Key knows this, Bill English knows this and Simon Bridges knows this. They all knew, and that was why Jami-Lee Ross was untouchable in the party despite clear, obvious and recorded personal transgressions. He raised plenty of loot for National’s coffers. Loot that they still have.

It makes you wonder why Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett thought it would be a good idea to throw Jami-Lee Ross in front of a train. It does, perhaps, explain why Paula Bennett organised and shilled staff, MPs and candidates to smear Ross, and why she sat in on the interviews to make sure the dirt was delivered in the most awful manner possible.

As Fran O’Sullivan noted and almost every one who can join rather simple dots together can see what Simon Bridges cannot or will not see: he’s donkey deep and so are many of the senior levels of the National party. There is no conspiracy theory, just inconvenient facts which will all come out in court.