Dotcom 'offended' Banks asked him to be anonymous, wrote cheques to 'Team Banksie'

John Banks has lost his second High Court bid to throw out a charge he transmitted an electoral return knowing part of it was false when donations from SkyCity and Kim Dotcom’s Megastuff were shown as anonymous.

The lawyer for the former ACT leader, David Jones, QC, was at Auckland’s High Court last week arguing the charge should be thrown out because of insufficient evidence.

In a decision released last night, Justice Ed Wylie disagreed, saying all the evidence should be explored in a full trial.

“The ultimate resolution of this case must depend on the evidence, how it comes out at trial, and on the court’s view of the reliability and credibility of the various witnesses,” Justice Wylie says in his decision.

Under the Local Electoral Act, candidates convicted of submitting a false return – and knowing it to be false – can be jailed for up to two years and smacked with a $10,000 fine.

The electoral return was signed and transmitted in December 2010, after Mr Banks' failed Auckland mayoral campaign.

The case was originally brought by private prosecutor Graham McCready, a retired and bankrupt accountant, after the Serious Fraud Office declined to pursue the allegations.

Last week at the High Court Mr Jones sought to introduce new evidence from Mr Banks’ treasurer and adviser, Lance Hutchison, which he says Mr McCready did not fully explore at the District Court proceedings.

Mr Jones says Mr Hutchison’s evidence would show the decision to make a donation anonymous rested with him and another adviser, Michelle Boag, who has also given a recent statement of evidence.

Mr Banks claims he “flicked through” the donation part of the electoral return before signing and transmitting, but he didn’t scrutinise it.

The District Court has previously ruled there is enough evidence for a trial to proceed, and Mr Banks unsuccessfully tried to have that decision overturned at the High Court last year.

The Crown has taken over the case, and it has been transferred to the High Court and fast-tracked because of the election year. The judge-alone trial is set down for May in Auckland.

One donation was for $15,000 made by SkyCity Management in May 2010 and two more for $25,000 made by Megastuff on behalf of Mr Dotcom, which were received in June 2010.

Mr Dotcom, in his witness statement, says that Mr Banks and his wife came to his Coatesville mansion for lunch on June 9.

“Mr Dotcom says he offered to donate $50,000 to Mr Banks’ mayoral campaign, and that the offer was promptly accepted,” Justice Wylie says in his decision.

Mr Dotcom says that, in Mr Banks’ presence, he instructed his chief security officer, Wayne Tempero, to ask his chief financial officer, Grant McKavanagh, to prepare a cheque.

Mr Banks asked for the donation to be split into two cheques, each for $25,000, so that he would not have to declare where they came from, Mr Dotcom’s evidence says.  

“Mr Dotcom says he was a little offended by this explanation, as he felt that it implied that Mr Banks did not want to be seen to be associated with him. Mr Dotcom says that he told Mr Banks that he did not have a problem with it being known that he had made a donation to him. He says that Mr Banks responded that he wanted to help Mr Dotcom, and that he could help him more effectively if no one knew about the donation,” Justice Wylie says in his decision.

Mr Dotcom says in his witness statement that two cheques were prepared by Mr McKavanagh and they were made out to “Team Banksie”. Mr Dotcom cannot remember whether the cheques were signed during or after his meeting with Mr Banks, the recent court decision says.

sflores@nbr.co.nz

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