Banks kept at arm's length from campaign finances, court told

By Heather McCracken

John Banks. Photo / Mark Mitchell
John Banks. Photo / Mark Mitchell

John Banks didn't read his election return, so couldn't have known whether it included false claims, a court heard today.

An oral evidence hearing was held at the Auckland District Court today in a private prosecution of Banks for knowingly filing a false election return.

The prosecution taken by Graham McCready alleges Banks recorded donations from Kim Dotcom and SkyCity as being anonymous, despite knowing who they were from. Banks denies the charge.

His lawyer David Jones, QC, told the court Banks couldn't have knowingly filed a false return, because he hadn't read it.

"That being the case, it is simply impossible for him to know how donations were recorded, whether they were attributed to people who were identifiable or not," Mr Jones said.

"However one may look at that in terms of was that correct, was that something he should have done, is not material.

"The short point is he did not look at the donations part, therefore he can't have known how people were recorded as donors."

Mr McCready said it was incumbent upon candidates to read the documents they sign.

He said the evidence had shown that Banks was clearly interested in keeping the donation from Dotcom secret, as he wanted to distance himself from him.

Earlier today, a member of Banks' campaign team gave evidence that he completed the election return and gave it to Banks to sign.

He said Banks checked the campaign expenses carefully, but just glanced at the five pages of donations.

"I flipped to the last page and John asked me if I was sure it was all true and correct and I said yes, it was all true and correct, and he signed it."

Banks never saw bank statements or bank deposits related to campaign donations, the witness said.

"John was always kept at arm's length from all our finances, apart from when we were short of cash."

Dotcom gave evidence that he had felt offended when Banks told him his $50,000 campaign would have to be anonymous.

"I had no problem with anyone knowing that I made this donation.

"He [Banks] said 'Kim, if I help you in the future it's better if nobody knows about your donation'."

Dotcom also said Banks was flown in Dotcom's private helicopter from Mechanics Bay in central Auckland to the Dotcom mansion in Coatesville for a meeting where the donation was discussed.

Dotcom's head of security Wayne Tempero gave evidence of being present on the helicopter flight and at the meeting in Coatesville when a discussion was held about splitting Dotcom's donation into two $25,000 cheques.

Dotcom's lawyer, Gregory Towers, was also briefly in the witness stand to confirm the contents of a statement made to police in May last year. The statement was not read to the court.

Skycity Entertainment Group CEO Nigel Morrison told the court he had handed Banks a cheque in an envelope at a meeting at Mr Morrison's office in 2010.

Mr Morrison said he hadn't considered whether the $15,000 donation should be anonymous.

Judge Phil Gittos will give a decision tomorrow on whether the matter will proceed to trial.

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