John Banks found guilty

LATEST: Banks conviction overturned, retrial ordered

John Banks says he is surprised and disappointed by a guilty verdict against him delivered today. 

The MP, found guilty of filing a false electoral return, gave a brief statement outside court today about the verdict delivered by Justice Ed Wylie. 

Mr Banks, facing a media scrum of about 30, referenced a 1930s song, saying in life a little rain must fall. 

Rain is still falling on him, he told media outside the Auckland High Court.

Mr Banks says his legal team will review the decision and consider all options. 

He was found guilty of ‘‘transmitting a return of electoral expenses knowing that it was false in a material particular.’’

The charge relates to entries on the electoral returns for Banks’ failed 2010 Auckland Super City mayoral campaign.

The Crown alleges Mr Banks knew that a $15,000 donation was from SkyCity and two $25,000 donations were from Kim Dotcom. The donations were recorded as anonymous on a signed declaration.

Mr Banks now faces a fine of up to $10,000 and/or two years in jail. His next court appearance for sentence is scheduled August 1. 

Having been found guilty of an offence punishable by prison, he will now have to resign his seat, whether or not he is actually sent to prison. His one out would be if he was discharged without conviction.

Justice Wylie told the court he believed the evidence of Dotcom witnesses in the John Banks' trial. 

Justice Wylie gave his decision in the High Court at Auckland today. Mr Banks appeared emotionless in the dock in a packed out courtroom this afternoon. 

The judge found Mr Banks knew that recording of the Dotcom donation was false. 

Justice Wylie said the evidence of the Dotcom witnesses surrounding events at the Dotcon mansion about how Mr Banks told Mr Dotcom to split the donation in two was accepted, and that the further testimony of Mr Dotcom's lawyer, Greg Towers, was compelling. The judge rejected Mr Banks' lawyer David Jones' argument that the evidence was all a fiction as part of Mr Dotcom's aspirations to bring down Prime Minister John Key. 

In relation to the Sky City donation, the judge found that Mr Banks knew that there was a donation but was not convinced that he actually knew it was false when it was transmitted. 

He said there was a possibility Mr Banks might have thought treasurer Lance Hutchison knew enough to record the donation as from SkyCity but may have abstained from further enquiry simply because he was careless or because he knew what the answer would be. 

Mr Banks will attend a sentencing hearing on August 1 but remains on remand at large.

ACT ssoldiers on
ACT Party president John Thompson released a statement expressing dissapointment at the guilty verdict.

“While ACT had nothing to do with Mr Banks 2010 mayoral campaign we have always found him to be a man of integrity,” Mr Thompson says.  

“If John Banks is forced to resign as MP for Epsom, the ACT Party is going to ensure the people of Epsom are still represented.  The party will take over Mr Banks’ electorate office and will ensure voters are able to have constituency issues handled by David Seymour, ACT's Epsom candidate in the forthcoming general election."

He later told NBR ONLINE, he suspects Mr Banks will appeal but is not sure. 

Mr Thompson said the verdict was not the “ideal result” but was unlikely to weigh that heavily come September.

“I don’t think it has damaged us at all because John had already announced his retirement and ACT is very much a new team.”

“We are going ahead with our plans, as we have set out to do.”

Should Banks appeal or resign? Vote in NBR's BUSINESS PULSE poll.


EARLIER: The actions of a retired accountant could bring down a politician today.

Justice Ed Wylie will today give his verdict on whether John Banks is guilty of ‘‘transmitting a return of electoral expenses knowing that it was false in a material particular.’’

Graham McCready brought the charges against the MP although later the Crown took over.

The charge relates to entries on the electoral returns for Banks’ failed 2010 Auckland Super City mayoral campaign.

The Crown alleges Mr Banks knew that a $15,000 donation was from SkyCity and from two $25,000 donations were from Kim Dotcom. The donations were recorded as anonymous on a signed declaration.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of more than two years in prison, or a fine of $10,000. 

Political commentator Bryce Edwards says this situation is unprecedented in the New Zealand jurisdiction.

“This is new territory for us and I don’t think there’s any room for any real challenge of the fact John Banks will be removed from Parliament.

However Dr Edwards says in terms of the government it won’t mean a great deal because there is not a lot of legislation to pass before now and the election.

He says it is highly unlikely for there to be a by-election as the vacancy would occur six months from the election date. 

Should Banks appeal or resign? Vote in NBR's BUSINESS PULSE poll.

LATEST: ACT leader: 'We must accept the court’s decision'

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