Ross hands audio recording over to the police

Embattled MP Jami-Lee Ross reported National Party leader Simon Bridges to the Police for fraudulently handling party donations.

Ross, in a two-hour long meeting with three police detectives at Wellington Central police station, played a voice recording of Bridges’ admitting knowledge of a $100,000 donation.

He has since released the voice recording on Facebook and Twitter.

Ross says there is evidence that Bridges declared and signed off on a donation submitted under a false name.

“He signed the piece of paper that said there was a donation from Cathedral Club. There is no such thing as Cathedral Club,” Ross says.

“It is simply implausible that he didn’t know what he was signing.”

Police have said in a press release that they take any complaint regarding alleged Electoral Act offences seriously.

“The information supplied will be assessed by a Detective Senior Sergeant at Police National Headquarters to determine what further steps may be required from a police perspective,” the release reads.

Ross also categorically denies that he split up the $100,000 donation, saying he did not have the authority or access to the money to be able to do so.

His police visit follows through on a promise he made in a dramatic press conference on Tuesday in which he defended himself against a “corrupt” Simon Bridges.

Ross alleged in a dramatic press conference yesterday that Bridges had signed off on a party donation filed under a false name which is unlawful under the electoral act. Photo: Screen grab from NZ Herald livestream.

Ross reiterated that he is not the leaker of the party leader’s travel expenses, an accusation which has snowballed into a full-blown political brawl between the two politicians.

He accused Bridges of having committed several breaches of the Electoral Act when allegedly manipulating party donations.

“It is unlawful to file a false return,” Ross told reporters in Parliament on Tuesday. “I believe Simon Bridges is a corrupt politician.

“The National Party has broken the law at the instructions of Simon Bridges.”

Ross resigned from the National Party and from his role as MP for Botany today forcing a by-election. He announced he will stand as an independent in the ensuing by-election.

He said the by-election will be a referendum in which voters could decide.

“I can no longer serve in a political party lead by a corrupt politician.”

Ross says Bridges launched a smear campaign against him after he questioned several of Bridges leadership decisions.

Ross says the campaign “to push [him] out” ramped up three weeks ago when he was accused by Bridges of harassing four women, but said when he asked for details and evidence he was not given any.

“[Simon Bridges] told me that if I kept asking for natural justice that it would not be just four women, he could get 15 women,” Ross said.

Ross said the news of such allegations was “devastating”.

This prompted Ross to take medical leave from parliament two weeks ago, inflaming innuendo around Ross and the leak.

Bridges has since down played the harassment allegations, saying it was “inappropriate behaviour” on Ross’ part rather than harassment.

“I am now medically well again,” Ross told reporters.

Ross says he is confident he can win back the Botany seat on a track record of 15 years.

Simon Bridges addressing the media yesterday afternoon. Bridges claimed Ross was a liar and a leaker. He urged Ross to go to the police saying his allegations that Bridges had done anything unlawful were baseless. Photo: Screen grab from Newshub livestream. 

Bridges addressed Ross’s allegations in his own press conference, flanked by senior members of the National Party.

He referred to Ross as a lone wolf MP who did not have the best interest’ of New Zealander’s in mind.

He said the National Party Caucus unanimously voted to expel Ross.

Bridges also rejected the allegations Ross has made around the handling of political donations.

“I invite Jami-Lee Ross to take these matters to the Police and I invite the Police to investigate them fully and promptly. They will find the allegations are baseless,” Bridges said in a press release.

“We as a caucus are going to now draw a line under this. We will be resolutely strong and focused on the things that matter to New Zealanders.”

Ross’s explosive allegations follows an announcement from Bridges on Monday that Ross was identified as the person likely to have leaked his travel expenses, an accusation which Ross fiercely denied.

Bridges told media that “The report states that the evidence identified points to Jami-Lee Ross as being the person who sent the anonymous text message.”

Bridges says he, alongside deputy leader Paula Bennett, visited Ross before the press conference to discuss the report and “gave him an opportunity to respond”.

Bridges says he “was not satisfied with [Ross’] explanation.”

The National Party leak investigation inquiry findings stated that Ross may be the leaker but cannot confirm with certainty.

The report then outlined a number of phone calls made by Ross which may link him to the leak.

“This evidence is not conclusive,” the report reads.

Meanwhile, Ross pre-empted Bridges announcement by fiercely denying the accusation in a series of tweets.

In one tweet Ross says, “Later today Simon Bridges is going to attempt to pin his leak inquiry on me. He cannot find who the actual leak is, so is attempting to use contact with my local Police area commander, and a journalist that is a friend (not Tova), as evidence that I am somehow involved.”

“Some months ago I fell out with Simon. I have internally been questioning leadership decisions he was making,” he tweeted.

“Working on his instruction, he asked me to do things with election donations that broke the law.”

Tweets by Jami-Lee Ross on Monday shortly before the National Party leak investigation inquiry report was released, which suggests Ross may have leaked Simon Bridges travel expenses back in August.