Saturday, September 25, 2010

Auckland Super City electoral police investigation into allegations of bribery on the North Shore...

View of Auckland's North Shore from the reserv...Image via Wikipedia Police have started a second Super City electoral investigation, this time into allegations of bribery on the North Shore.

The Shore Voice ticket, which includes five North Shore City councillors, is being investigated for allegedly asking voters to participate in a survey with a $15,000 prize draw.

Detective Senior Sergeant Brett Batty, of the North Shore police, yesterday said this followed a complaint to the Auckland electoral officer, Dale Ofsoske, by the Citizens & Ratepayers Association.

Police are focusing on the bribery clause in the Local Electoral Act.

This says it is an offence punishable by up to two years in jail to offer or give money to voters.

A separate police inquiry is being made into a possible voting scam in Papatoetoe, South Auckland, which could involve more than 1000 voters.

Police are concentrating on 306 names which have been removed from the roll by the Electoral Enrolment Centre, but sources said that number was the tip of the iceberg.

Last night, there were conflicting interpretations between Shore Voice leader Chris Darby and the company providing email survey work for the ticket about entering voters into a $15,000 prize draw.

Q Group head Kevin Francis said the company sent emails asking voters to register with Shore Voice.

In the next sentence, the email invited voters to click on another information link to go into a draw for $15,000.

"The act of doing that puts you in the draw," Mr Francis said.

Mr Darby, a North Shore City councillor, said the political group had never thought of treating, bribery or inducements for voters.

He said the survey copy seen and approved by the group did not include any financial inducements.

Mr Darby said C&R was trying to smear Shore Voice because its polling showed Shore Voice was rattling its Auckland City-based rival.

The other four city councillors standing for Shore Voice are Dianne Hale, former Labour MP Ann Hartley, Margaret Miles and businessman Kevin Schwass.

With 12 other candidates, the ticket is contesting the North Shore and Albany wards on the Auckland Council and the Hibiscus & Bays, Upper Harbour, Devonport-Takapuna, and Kaipatiki local boards.

C&R president John Slater, who calls Shore Voice a "Labour Party-aligned ticket", said the right-leaning group would assist the authorities.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Mark Gutry yesterday said police were making good progress on the possible Papatoetoe voting scam, and hoped to wrap it up before the postal election closed on October 9.

Up to 40 officers are working on the inquiry.

Mr Gutry said he expected the figure of 306 falsely enrolled voters to increase, but would not comment further.

People living in Hamilton, Tauranga and Hastings have allegedly been enrolled in the Papatoetoe subdivision of the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board.

Electoral Enrolment Centre executive Murray Wicks said the 306 people dropped from the roll included seven from Tauranga, eight from the Western Bay of Plenty and 291 from Auckland, mostly South Auckland.

A field officer contracted to the Electoral Enrolment Centre to enrol Indian community voters has denied being involved in the alleged scam.

Harjinder Singh, editor of the Punjabi News website, was named in an official letter of complaint to Mr Ofsoske. The letter was passed on to the police.

Mr Singh said he visited Hindu and Sikh temples on Sundays to help people fill out voter forms, and handed out forms which people completed and returned in pre-paid envelopes.

He did not know how many people he had enrolled in total, but said it was sometimes up to 50 a day.

Mr Singh said he never enrolled anyone outside of Papatoetoe in the subdivision of the local board. He said police had not spoken to him.

Mr Wicks would not say if Harjinder Singh had enrolled any of the 306 removed voters.

The Weekend Herald revealed the Super City police inquiry a fortnight ago after visiting two Papatoetoe addresses where nearly 90 people were enrolled.

It is understood that Daljit Singh, one of two Labour Party candidates in the Papatoetoe subdivision, has now spoken to police.

He was trying to arrange a meeting with detectives on Thursday night, but did not return telephone calls yesterday.

Earlier in the week, police visited Daljit Singh's real estate office and took his laptop computer.

Mr Singh said he had done nothing wrong and was the victim of a politically motivated smear campaign.

Acknowledgements: Weekend Herald


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