New Zealand National Party Minister Maurice Williamson resigned from his post after allegations of using his position to help a Chinese businessman escape a police charge. Prime Minister John Key has accepted his resignation, saying that the MP crossed the line.
Emails released by the New Zealand Police to the Herald expose how Williamson called police officers to investigate two domestic violence charges against Donghua Liu, a rich Chinese business who has donated $22,000 to the National Party.
Previously, he has also lobbied a ministerial colleague to give Liu New Zealand citizenship “as fast as possible,” conducting the ceremony himself after the citizenship was granted.
Williamson denied that he was trying to influence the police about Liu’s case in January, saying that he thought he made it “crystal clear” that he wanted to use his position to help Liu.
He said that he wasn’t looking to interfere with Liu’s criminal case, but just wanted to “make sure somebody had reviewed the matter to ensure we were on solid ground as Mr Liu is investing a lot of money in New Zealand,” Inspector Gary Davey said.
On Thursday, Williamson announced his resignation as a minister, explaining that he called the police on behalf of his constituents who approached him regarding the case.
“There was no intention to do anything about screwing the outcome, but just to work out the focus of it,” he said.
“When I hung up I literally did not see that that was anything other than what a member of parliament would normally do on behalf of somebody who had asked.
“In 26 years as an MP when I have hung up the phone from a call to ACC or the police or the health board advocating on behalf of somebody I’ve always thought that was my job and I wasn’t crossing a line.
“However, it has become clear that the police believe that it does cross a line, the Prime Minister thinks that it was inappropriate for me to have made the call.”
Indeed, Key has said that Williamson has “crossed the line” by making the phone call.
“There’s no grey in this, in the end there’s a line. The line says that ministers do not involve themselves in police prosecutions, bcause constabulary independence runs at the heart of the New Zealand judicial system,” the PM said.
“Ministers cannot, in my opinion, make phone calls, when there’s an ongoing prosecution, whatever the motivations.
“The minute he made the phone call, in my view, he crossed the line.”
Williamson remains an MP for Pakuranga, and will run for the electorate in the September general election.
Williamson became an Internet viral sensation and an unlikely gay icon in April 2013 when his humorous speech in support of gay marriage in the country has been made online.
His “gay rainbow” speech has even been voted the top Quote of the Year for 2013.