John Banks' trial over Dotcom, Sky City donations begins in High Court today

John Banks' trial for allegedly filing a false electoral return kicks off in the High Court at Auckland today.

The judge-only trial centres on Crown allegations that Mr Banks knowingly filed a false return after the 2010 Auckland Mayoral election (in which the then Auckland Mayor stood unsuccessfully against Manukau Len Brown for the to head the newly amalgamated "super city"). Under the local government electoral law at the time, it was an offence to list a donour as anonymous if a candidate knew their identity.

The Crown says Mr Banks asked Kim Dotcom to split a $50,000 cheque into two $25,000 payments to skirt threshold on anonymous donations. It also alleges Mr Banks rang Mr Dotcom to thank him a few days later. Mr Banks denies the claim.

Mr Dotcom — who became angered after Mr Banks failed to answer a request for help after the accused pirate was jailed following the January 20, 2012 raid on his rented mansion — has backed the Crown's version of events.

The prosecution also alleges that Sky City CEO Nigel Morrison personally handed Mr Banks a campaign donation cheque for $15,000. The Sky City donation was also listed as anonymous.

Mr Banks has denied any wrongdoing. 

A defence affidavit says the candidate's electoral return was compiled by advisors Lance Hutchison and Michelle Boag.

Mr Banks "flicked through" the return before signing it off.

Pressure from publicity surrounding the pending trial saw Mr Banks resign as ACT Party leader, and he will not contest his Epsom seat at the September 20 election (David Seymour will stand for ACT in the electorate).

If convicted, Mr Banks faces up to two years' jail or a fine of up to $10,000.

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