SFO muzzles Jami-Lee Ross | The Jackal

11 Aug 2020

SFO muzzles Jami-Lee Ross

Accused - Jami-Lee Ross
Nobody would think poorly of you if you wrote former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross off as just another crackpot! After all, now that he’s hitched his Advance NZ wagon to conspiracy theorist Billy Te Kahika’s Public Party, there’s little chance of him ever redeeming himself or recovering any of his previously held credibility as a politician. But what people shouldn’t so easily dismiss is the case currently before the High Court in which the former National Party Chief Whip is one of the accused.

Ross, who along with then party leader Simon Bridges, was directly involved in the organising of secret donations to the National Party from prominent Chinese businessmen. Clearly he has insider knowledge about just how the substantive funds were arranged to try and keep them secret.

But despite this insider knowledge, Ross obviously didn’t know all the ins and outs of the case. He was recently provided further sensitive information by the Serious Fraud Office, reported to be a list of all undisclosed donations made to the National Party while he was still one of their Members of Parliament.

Today, the Times Online reported:

SFO welcomes court decision in Jami-Lee Ross case 

“The material was disclosed recently during the course of the agency’s compliance with its normal disclosure obligations,” the SFO statement said. 
“The SFO acted with an abundance of care in seeking the court order as one of the parties had reportedly expressed an interest in publishing the material. 
“The agency believes that any publication of the material would have breached the SFO’s secrecy provisions and been contrary to requirements of confidentiality applying to the use of material obtained through court proceedings.

The counter-argument here is that the public has a right to know exactly who has been donating large amounts of money, and in what sums, to the National Party. Whether this information is provided through the release of documents obtained during discovery or proper administrative procedures is largely beside the point.

In cases of party political donations, where foreign interests may have attempted or did indeed corrupt elected officials, the public clearly has a right to know every single little detail.

By keeping this information secret, the Serious Fraud Office and Courts of New Zealand are essentially shielding the National Party from public scrutiny. There’s no question that accountability is the bedrock of a functional political system. But by limiting the rightful release and examination of this kind of evidence the court is essentially not allowing the public to be the judge on issues the public has, I would argue, the ultimate right to adjudicate on.