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SFO Boss Threatens to Resign

Information is not knowledge.

- Albert Einstein

Serious Fraud Office director David Bradshaw says he will consider resigning if a parliamentary select committee persists in requesting legal documents from his office.

Members of the law and order committee yesterday asked Mr Bradshaw to reconsider his refusal to hand over legal opinions received while forming his decision not to prosecute those involved with the Magnum transaction, part of the Winebox case.

Mr Bradshaw, his voice shaking with the pressure at times, repeatedly stated that anding over the information would be a breach of the office's role and of the constitutional separation between his office and Government.  The office could not function if it faced the prospect of a select committee demanding all information it held on the case, including that which was confidential or legally privileged.

As questioners, including New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, whose allegations sparked the Winebox inquiry, repeatedly asked him if he would reconsider his position, Mr Bradshaw said he would: "If this committee asks me again for that information I would have to consider my position as director of the Serious Fraud Office and how I will respond to it.  It is undermining everything that this office needs to have in place to perform its functions".

Some months ago Mr Peters requested the SFO hand over the legal opinion of Auckland Crown solicitor Simon Moore.  Mr Moore had been asked by Mr Bradshaw to give an opinion on whether the SFO should prosecute.  Mr Bradshaw said that opinion and his own coincided, in that while there was sufficient evidence to prosecute, the chances of success were very slim.

Mr Peters wants the decision not to prosecute reviewed and believes the opinion from Mr Moore will back a prosecution.  In a lengthy committee session, Mr Bradshaw said he had been called a liar and defamed by Mr Peters and the media over the issue.

An opinion from constitutional lawyer Sir Geoffrey Palmer was that he shouldn't hand over the documents.  However, the committee said it had another opinion from clerk of the House David McGee that Sir Geoffrey's opinion was "aspirational" and it had the power to ask for it.

The committee eventually delayed a constitutional showdown by asking Mr Bradshaw to consider the clerk's opinion and see if some way could be found to provide the information.  Mr Peters had the last word, warning Mr Bradshaw he would have his decision tested in the courts anyway.

The refusal to release the legal opinion to the select committee has posed an unusual constitutional problem - whether a witness before a select committee must hand over information.  Mr McGee would not comment on select committee rules.  "There isn't a particular answer ...the rules are a question of working through a series of legal issues."  Law and order committee chairwoman Janey Mackey said the committee was not asking Mr Bradshaw to do anything that would compromise his office. - NZPA, Post staff

Source: The Evening Post Friday 24 November 2000

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