John Key confirms dinner at Donghua Liu’s house

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed he attended a private fundraising dinner at controversial rich businessman Donghua Liu’s Auckland house in August 2013.

Liu later that month donated $25,000 to Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross’s campaign.

Asked about the fundraiser, Key’s office had previously refused to say where it was held.

Key said he recalled the dinner was at Liu’s house, but he defended his office’s response, saying the party did not disclose dinner venues. “We are never going to start getting into a process of saying where we had dinner, basically what I ate.”

Key said he did not know about the donation at the time, only that Ross was returning it.

It has emerged that after the 2014 election Ross paid back the $25,000, saying it was not needed because National had put $24,000 towards his campaign.

Key said he knew it was a fundraising dinner but did not involve himself in donations, which were handled by the party.

Liu was granted residency by Labour in 2004 and citizenship by National in 2010, in both cases against officials’ advice.

Last year Liu, who had earlier given $22,000 to National and had donated to Labour when it was in office, became a political embarrassment.

When it was revealed Maurice Williamson contacted police after Liu was arrested on domestic violence charges, Williamson was forced to resign as a National minister.

David Cunliffe, who had previously accused National of doing “cash for access” deals with Liu, was in turn embarrassed in the run-up to the election.

It was revealed a letter that turned out to be inconsequential was sent in his name asking when an application by Liu would be dealt with. Cunliffe had denied meeting or lobbying for Liu.

Labour also came under fire over Liu’s donations to the party, the size of which were never finally established.

The New Zealand Herald has reported Liu was upset by the refund from Ross, which he regarded as a “slap in the face”.

But Ross reportedly said he had not intended to insult Liu and the repayment was not linked to negative publicity surrounding Liu.

The refunded donation is expected to be disclosed in Electoral Commission returns later this month.

– The Dominion Post

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