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Cullen ignored concerns over disbanding SFO

Simon Power MP National Party Justice Spokesman

9 July 2008

Cullen ignored concerns over disbanding SFO

Revelations that Attorney-General Michael Cullen treated with disdain the serious concerns about the scrapping of the Serious Fraud Office from its director David Bradshaw are most disturbing, says National's Justice spokesman, Simon Power.

He is commenting on correspondence between the two, which has been obtained by NZPA under the Official Information Act. It shows Mr Bradshaw told Dr Cullen that:

* Scrapping the SFO would 'sound the death-knell' for high-end white collar criminal investigations and prosecutions in New Zealand.

* Most serious and complex fraud was not organised crime and that a paper prepared by Justice and Police for ministers was 'misleading or even worse untrue', and that 'some ministers will be misled by this paper with potentially very serious consequences'.

* The Government's decision was in reaction to gang violence, when 'the real question is why the police aren't simply coping with the problem, if in fact they are so capable and have such fantastic structures already in place?'

"One note shows that the SFO was kept out of the planning process and knew nothing of the plans until a couple of weeks before it was announced.

"Another shows that the decision to change SFO powers was made 'high, very high' and Law Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer was mentioned. It says Police Commissioner Howard Broad and his deputy Rob Pope 'have someone lined up' to direct the new agency.

"It's very clear that Dr Cullen and the Police had already made up their minds about what they were going to do.

"After the death of toddler Jhia Te Tua in a gang shooting, the Government was so embarrassed that it had done nothing for years to tackle the gangs that it grabbed the nearest thing it could, and set about making changes that didn't need to be made.

"They panicked. They were so hell-bent on their course that they chose to ignore someone who actually knew what he was talking about.

"National has been concerned about plans to scrap the SFO from the day it was announced, and these papers back those concerns.

"Removing the SFO's special focus on white-collar crime is folly, and the fact that it is now investigating three collapsed finance companies is proof of that.

"That's why National voted against the first reading of the bill that abolishes the SFO.

"This was a clearly very shabby process, and Dr Cullen should explain why he ignored David Bradshaw's concerns."

ENDS

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