New Zealand police to charge sitting MP

Friday, October 5, 2007

A New Zealand High Court judge has granted leave today to the New Zealand Police to prosecute current Member of Parliament (MP), Taito Phillip Field. When Field is charged, he will face 15 charges relating to bribery and corruption.

Judge Justice Tony Randerson said in his ruling that it was within the public interest to see the "extremely serious" charges laid against the independent MP. Justice Randerson said that the allegations made, "strike at the heart of the administration of government and the integrity of members of Parliament."

Work, worth around NZ$10,000, was undertaken on seven houses the MP owns in Auckland, Wellington, Tonga and Samoa by Thais. In return, Field helped them with immigration applications into New Zealand. Justice Randerson said, "There is no question that the respondent undertook immigration work for the named individuals and that they carried out painting, plastering and tiling work for the respondent on the various properties."

The trial will focus around two aspects. Firstly, whether the work carried out was undervalued and secondly, if work was being done in return for immigration assistance via a corrupt arrangement and was treated as such.

If convicted, Field will face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail under Section 103 of the Crimes Act 1961.

This ruling sets a precedent in New Zealand as Field is the first MP to face these types of charges. In June, there was a court hearing to argue if charges were to be laid against the former Labour MP by the Crown. In June, Crown Prosecutor Simon Moore said, "The rational for a High Court judge being involved in the exercise appears to be based on the need to avoid the appearance of a ministerial or political interference in making a prosecutorial decision."

At the same June court hearing, Field said he was innocent of all allegations. "I have nothing to hide. I am innocent and it is best that I front up."

When the allegations first surfaced, Phillip Field was a sitting Labour MP. He resigned from the party in February and returned to Parliament as an independent.

The ruling will be appealed by Field's lawyers.