New ZealandGreen Party MP Golriz Ghahraman has resigned from parliament after the emergence of multiple allegations of shoplifting against her. CCTV footage of her attempting to steal items from at least two high-end clothing stores in Auckland and Wellington has also emerged.
In the first comments since the allegations were levelled against her, Ms Ghahraman said: “It is clear to me that my mental health is being badly affected by the stresses relating to my work. This has led me to act in ways that are completely out of character. I am not trying to excuse my actions, but I do want to explain them.
“People should, rightly, expect the highest standards of behaviour from their elected representatives. I fell short. I’m sorry.” She said: “The best thing for my mental health is to resign as a member of parliament and to focus on my recovery and to find other ways to work for positive change in the world.”
On 10 January, Newstalk ZB Plus first reported accusations against the 43-year-old MP, claiming she was involved in shoplifting during the festive season at Scotties Boutique, a luxury brand store in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. The police acknowledged there was an investigation into the allegation, but were unable to confirm specific individual identities at the time.
The owners and staff of Scotties Boutique refrained from making any public statements regarding the two shoplifting allegations involving Ms Ghahraman and their store.
Police are also currently investigating another shoplifting allegation involving Ms Ghahraman at a Wellington store called Cre8iveworx. It was reported on Monday that the store sent emails to other businesses claiming that they believed Ms Ghahraman was on the premises in October last year. Cre8iveworx, which sells high-end items, reported the incident to the police on 26 October.
Green Party leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw held a press conference after days of silence and said that they had accepted Ms Ghahraman’s resignation. “Accountability was important,” they said. “It’s important to understand that all MPs are still human,” Ms Davidson added.
Mr Shaw said: “What we are disappointed about is the circumstances she finds herself in. It’s unfortunate and it’s important to us she takes accountability for her actions and gets the support that she needs. We hope it [the investigation] gets resolved as fast as it can.”
He said Ms Ghahraman has faced increased stress during her parliamentary tenure due to physical threats she has received. The two leaders added that Ms Ghahraman has been subject to continuous threats of sexual violence and death threats “since the day she was elected to parliament. There are going to be consequences for that. I have a lot of empathy for the fact that she has identified that she is in a state of mental distress.
“Everyone will have criticisms about how we handled [the situation]. It doesn’t change the outcome. Ultimately, she is taking accountability for her actions and is seeking help.”
In her statement, Ms Ghahraman noted: “It’s not a behaviour I can explain because it’s not rational in any way and, after medical evaluation, I understand I’m not well. The mental health professional I see says my recent behaviour is consistent with recent events giving rise to extreme stress response, and relating to previously unrecognised trauma.
“With that in mind, I don’t want to hide behind my mental health problems, and I take full responsibility for my actions, which I deeply regret.”
Before she entered politics in 2017, Ms Ghahraman served as a human rights lawyer. She was New Zealand’s first refugee Member of Parliament. In her political role, she held nine portfolios, including justice, foreign affairs, human rights, defence, refugees, and women.