Cops called to Vic Nats missing cash case

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh says police will investigate a suspicious withdrawal of cash.Police have been called in to investigate a mystery withdrawal from a Victorian Nationals party bank account.

In May 2017 there was $8000 taken from the party’s Morwell branch account and despite the sum being repaid, police have been asked to investigate.

“Police will speak to party officials to determine the circumstances of the complaint,” a spokesman said on Monday.

An audit of the account between January 2014 and August 2017 is understood to have sparked concerns.

“The audit indicated (the) possibility of unauthorised transactions and of an alleged forgery relating to a withdrawal of $8000 in May 2017,” Nationals state president Neil Pankhurst said in a statement.

“This sum was later deposited back into the account.”

Party leader Peter Walsh fronted reporters and would not say if the sum was connected to former Nationals MP Russell Northe, who stood down from the party in August after it was revealed he owed thousands of dollars.

Mr Walsh confirmed he loaned Mr Northe $30,000 in 2015.

“He needed money as a contribution to his franchise down there, I took him on face value at the time and loaned him that money on a handshake,” Mr Walsh said.

“I don’t (usually lend money to colleagues) and it’s good practice not to and in this case I regret the fact that Russell wasn’t totally honest with me.”

Mr Walsh said he was visited by Mr Northe last sitting week, who made a “small repayment” but he would not comment on any other money owed by the MP.

It’s believed he could have borrowed more than $685,000.

In a statement Mr Northe – who now sits in parliament as an independent – said the latest reports of his finances had been upsetting for both him and his family.

“Claims of missing money as reported in some media outlets today is simply not correct and I will be seeking legal counsel on this point,” he wrote.

He restated that in the past he made “some very poor decisions”.

His wife, Jenny, took a swipe at the Nationals.

“Russell worked extremely hard for the party for more than 10 years and is desperately trying to make amends for his mistakes,” she wrote in the same statement.

“Moreover, for our family to be dragged through the mud again for political gain is shameful.”

When Mr Northe left the Nationals he confessed to recovering from mental health and gambling issues and on Monday confirmed he continues to receive medical assistance.

He is yet to decide if he will try to hold on to the seat of Morwell at the November state election.

On Monday former senator Ricky Muir announced he’ll run with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmer’s party and Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said Labor would “love to win the seat of Morwell back”.

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