The PM, the dinner and the $25k donation

John Key

Electoral returns out next week will confirm that a
National Party MP received $25,000 from a controversial
businessman after Prime Minister John Key had a private dinner
with him – at the man’s home.

The PM has always maintained that he met Donghua Liu at a
National Party fundraiser but would never say where.

Today, the Weekend Herald can reveal that the fundraiser was
actually a private dinner at Mr Liu’s $4.75 million home in
Remuera, where a smiling Mr Key and Jami-Lee Ross, the MP for
Botany, were photographed alongside Mr Liu and his young

Afterwards, Mr Liu donated $25,000 that same month to Mr
Ross’ election campaign. But the following year, Mr Liu
became a political embarrassment for the Government after a
Herald investigation revealed the impact of the property
developer’s links to the National Party.

Maurice Williamson was forced to resign as a minister when
the Herald revealed he had called police after Mr Liu was
arrested on domestic violence charges and told them Mr Liu
was a big investor in New Zealand.

Mr Key said then that Mr Williamson had “crossed the line”.

Shortly after the election, Mr Ross refunded the large
donation from Mr Liu’s company – 15 months after it was
given. Mr Ross has since disclosed the donation in candidate
returns for the 2014 election due to be released by the
Electoral Commission next week.

Mr Liu is upset that Mr Ross refunded the $25,000 cheque,
which he regarded as a “slap in the face”.

The 53-year-old pleaded guilty to the domestic violence
charges in April last year, but was in the Auckland District
Court this week seeking to withdraw those admissions. He was
successful and the case is likely to now head to trial.

Outside court, he told the Herald he gave $25,000 to Mr Ross
through the “Botany Cabinet Club” and “subsequently this
amount was refunded”.

“It was very strange. The refund was sent to my lawyer, I
wasn’t told about it in person.”

Asked whether he thought the National Party was embarrassed
about the donation because of the publicity surrounding his
court case, Mr Liu said: “It’s better to not comment, and let
the public make their own judgment.”

Mr Liu stressed that he always made donations to politicians
when they asked for financial support and any money he gave
was in good faith without any expectation.

But the discovery of the private dinner with the Liu family
and the $25,000 donation to a National MP raises new
questions about the Prime Minister’s meetings with the
wealthy businessman.

When previously asked last year about his personal contact
with Mr Liu, a spokeswoman for Mr Key stated: “As Prime
Minister and the leader of the National Party, Mr Key attends
a number of functions up and down the country which are
attended by a large number of people. While we don’t have a
record of who attends these events, Mr Key recalls seeing Mr
Liu at various functions, including a dinner as part of a
National Party fundraiser.”

She went on to say the fundraiser was in August 2013 at a
“private home and we will not be disclosing the address in
Auckland” – without clarifying the dinner was at Mr Liu’s

Yesterday, the PM stood by his statement and declined to
answer any questions. “The Prime Minister’s statement was
quite correct regarding his recollection of seeing Mr Liu at
a number of events, including at a dinner,” a spokeswoman

“Any questions regarding candidate donations are a matter for
individual candidates.”

Last night, Jami-Lee Ross said he did not intend to insult Mr
Liu and any negative publicity associated to the businessman
was not the reason the $25,000 was returned.

He said the Liu donation was given to be used in the local
Botany campaign, but was not spent as a $24,000 donation from
the National Party covered his expenses.

“So when the [donation and expense] returns were being put
together after the election, it was decided the $25,000
should be returned to the donor because it was not used.

“There was no intent to slap anyone in the face.”

The story so far

August 2013: Prime Minister John Key and National Party MP
Jami-Lee Ross have private dinner at Donghua Liu’s home. Liu
donates $25,000 to Mr Ross election campaign.

December 2013: Liu arrested on domestic violence charges.

March 2014: Herald reveals Maurice Williamson lobbied
ministerial colleague to give Liu citizenship against
official advice and Liu’s $22,000 donation to National.

May 2014: Mr Williamson forced to resign as a minister after
Herald investigation reveals he telephoned senior police
officer about Liu’s domestic violence charges. Prime Minister
John Key said he recalled “seeing Mr Liu at various
functions, including a dinner as part of a National Party
fundraiser.” He does not mention that the private dinner was
at Liu’s own home.

November 2014: Mr Ross returns the $25,000 donation to Liu.

February 2015: Electoral returns reveal the $25,000 donation.

– NZ Herald

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