Bribery Charges Sought "Against NZ MP"

Bribery charges sought 'against NZ MP'

May 24, 2007 – 3:34PM
The Age (Melbourne)

New Zealand police are seeking bribery charges against a serving MP, amid claims he took money from constituents and helped immigration overstayers in return for cheap labour.

Police will ask New Zealand's High Court for approval to bring bribery charges against Taito Phillip Field – the first time such serious charges have been pursued against a serving member of parliament.

Field was earlier suspended from the Cabinet and resigned from the ruling Labour Party to become an independent.

Approval to lay the 14 bribery charges must come from a High Court judge, and police are likely to file an application with the court by late June, Detective Superintendent Malcolm Burgess said.

The decision follows an eight-month police investigation of allegations that Field, a New Zealand citizen of Samoan descent, took money from constituents and gave assistance to Asian immigration overstayers in return for cheap labour.

Field's lawyer, Satiu Simativa Perese, said the MP would fight the police application.

“He has maintained his innocence from day one and he is hardly likely to capitulate now. He has not had the opportunity to put his side of the story,” Perese said.

If the High Court grants the police request and Field is prosecuted, he will only be forced to resign from parliament if he is found guilty. The charges carry a maximum seven-year prison term.

Under the Electoral Act, MPs must resign if convicted of a crime punishable by two or more years in prison or if found guilty of a corrupt practice.

Field's troubles began in September 2005 when he allegedly gave visa assistance to a Thai overstayer facing deportation in return for the man doing tiling work on one of his homes in Samoa.

Field said there was no connection between the two events.