Dotcom donations complaints laid against Banks, police confirm
UPDATE: Auckland police confirm two complaints have been laid against ACT leader John Banks, over donations from internet tycoon Kim Dotcom.
Auckland city police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty says the complaints related to claims made by Mr Dotcom about donations he made to Mr Banks's Super City mayoral campaign.
Today's complaints follow two made on Friday over a $15,000 donation allegedly made by Sky City to Mr Banks for the same campaign.
"The two complaints received today will be collated in the same file and they are all being dealt with by the same officer," Ms Hegarty says.
She confirmed the two people who made complaints today were the same people who referred the Sky City matter to police on Friday.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard has complained to Auckland Council's chief electorate officer Bruce Thomas, and asked for the matter to be referred to police.
In his letter to Mr Thomas, Mr Mallard says: "Mr Banks appears to be at fault knowingly not declaring the original donation, transmitting a false return and subsequently not admitting to and rectifying the mistake.
"The inference is that this was done to hide Mr Banks' link to Mr Dotcom."
Sky City's donation was listed as anonymous on Mr Banks' electoral return. The casino donated the same amount to Mr Banks' rival, Len Brown.
The Electoral Commission is reviewing contributions to Mr Banks' campaign.
Any donation over $1000 must be declared within 55 days of an election.
Politicians must state who made a donation if they know who made it. It is not illegal for a politician to discuss with potential donors the fact that a future donation could be made anonymously (see the Electoral Commission's quick summary of donation rules here).
On Saturday, alleged internet pirate Kim Dotcom claimed Mr Banks asked for a $50,000 donation to be split into two parts so it could be made anonymously.
The request was made in April 2010 in the run-up to the Super City mayoral race, Mr Dotcom said.
ACT Party president Chris Simmons told NBR ONLINE his leader had given him assurances over the donation - probably the same assurances Mr Banks had given Prime Minister John Key.
"John has my full confidence."
Mr Simmons says: "That's what the law allows and we feel very comfortable that it's nothing untoward at all."
Stand down and shut up - Hide
Mr Banks has dismissed the Dotcom issue as a "sideshow".
However, ACT leader Rodney Hide has called on Mr Banks to stand down as a minister in the National-led government.
"Mr Banks needs to stand down as minister, work with the police, and shut up until the until the investigation is completed," Mr Hide said.
"He needs to stand down to save the Prime Minister the embarrassment of having a minister under police investigation."
Humbug - Banks
Mr Banks was in no mood to shut up on the donation issue on Sunday morning.
"I think you think I came up the river on a cabbage boat," he told Q&A host Paul Holmes.
"I can tell you when I signed my declaration for the mayoralty, I signed it in good faith in the knowledge it was true and correct. I have nothing to fear and nothing to hide and I welcome the [Electoral Commission] inquiry."
The ACT leader added, "It's a sideshow. It's mostly a media beat up and most of it is humbug."
Mr Banks has been open about visiting Kim Dotcom at his rented Chrisco Mansion, and broadcast video footage taken after the close of the mayoral campaign shows Mr Banks toasting Mr Dotcom at the German's birthday last year (Mr Dotcom's birthday is January 21 - the date was chosen this year by law enforcement authorities for the mansion raid because co-accused had arrived from around the world for a party).
Kim Dotcom has told media he sent a helicopter to Mechanics Bay in central Auckland to ferry Mr Banks to the Megaupload millionaire's mansion in Coatesville. Mr Banks has said he can't recall if this happened, or not.
But asked by Mr Holmes for a yes or no answer on whether Kim Dotcom had raised the possibility of a $50,000 donation during their April 2010 meeting, Mr Banks would only reiterate he signed his return in good faith and that "it would all come out in the wash" in the inquiry (watch the interview here).
PM stands by Banks
Opposition parties have also called for Mr Banks to step aside during the inquiry.
Mr Banks is Minister of Regulatory Reform and Small Business, and Associate Minister of Education and Associate Minister of Commerce.
Prime Minister John Key said today he would not be standing Mr Banks down.
Mr Key said there was no evidence, only accusations. People making the allegations were free to test them with the police.
All attempts to regulate donations flawed
Otago University political science lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards told NBR ONLINE that the loophole in the law allowing for anonymous donations should probably be closed - and to avoid above-the-threshold donations being split into two or more cheques, a complete ban on anonymity would be needed.
He noted, "Back in 2000, the then National Party president John Collinge said, ‘I think that if you’re going to make donations publishable, then you should disallow a device that enables you to hide where those donations come from’.
"That sentiment is entirely logical. It has always appeared that the exemption in the electoral law for anonymous donations has been a self-serving loophole for political parties."
However, he also noted that "all attempts to regulate political donations will have flaws and weaknesses that mean that the public can never really be confident that the laws around political finance provide a true picture of where politicians obtain their money from".
If anonymous donations were banned, there would be other legal avenues for wealthy individuals to provide parties and politicians with funding without being detected.
"For example, parties can direct donations through bogus business ventures," Dr Edwards said.
"According to rules outlined by the Electoral Commission, ‘People who pay to attend a fund-raising event will generally be paying for goods or services rather than making a donation’ and hence are not subject to the disclosure regulations.
"Political parties can therefore hold fundraising events, such as a dinner function with the attendance of party leaders, to which entry would require a large amount of money, and this would be deemed a business transaction rather than a political contribution."