Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Act sticks by Banks - for now

John Banks has the confidence of the Act board.  Photo / APN
John Banks has the confidence of the Act board. Photo / APN

The Act Party board is standing by leader John Banks, despite damning evidence in a police report into donations from Kim Dotcom and SkyCity in his 2010 mayoral campaign.

Act president Chris Simmons said Mr Banks still had the board's confidence but did not say whether he hoped Mr Banks would stand again in 2014.

He said he had not read the police report in which Mr Dotcom, his security guard and Mr Dotcom's lawyer all said Mr Banks had mentioned a donation from the internet tycoon to him in 2010.

That donation and one from SkyCity given personally to Mr Banks in a SkyCity-branded envelope were not disclosed in Mr Banks' donations return, but police have not laid charges, saying that while there was evidence the return was false, they could not prove Mr Banks had known that when he signed it.

Mr Simmons said he did not expect the board to ask Mr Banks about it, as it was a political sideshow. Asked if he would like Mr Banks to stand again in 2014, he said Mr Banks was "a very capable politician" and Act had been lucky to have him.

However, he had not talked to Mr Banks about 2014 and said it was still two years away.

Prime Minister John Key was overseas when the report came out last week but he is likely to come under heavy fire in Parliament this week. Labour is accusing him of hypocrisy because of his criticism of former Prime Minister Helen Clark in 2008 for taking NZ First leader Winston Peters at his word when he denied receiving a donation from Owen Glenn.

Mr Key had called on Helen Clark to stand Mr Peters down, saying that was what he would do if he was the Prime Minister. He also criticised her for failing to check out Mr Peters' claims, saying it was her job to find out the facts.

Yesterday, Mr Key was still refusing to read the police report, saying if Mr Banks assured him he had not broken the law that was "good enough".

"The test is whether I believe he has misled me and at this point I've got no evidence to prove that he hasn't. I don't go through a forensic analysis. This is a system based on trust."

Mr Key said his criticism of Helen Clark in 2008 was a different situation and National had not criticised her until there was evidence of the donation from Mr Glenn.

"I accept [Mr Banks] at his word and if it's proven otherwise, that's a different issue. There's no charges being laid against Mr Banks, he's not going to be found guilty of any crime."

Mr Key said Labour's attacks were politically motivated and Labour had not subjected any other candidate in 2010 to the same level of questioning.

The story so far

December 2010
Herald reveals SkyCity donated $15,000 to both Len Brown and John Banks mayoral campaigns but Banks did not disclose the donation in his return.

April 23, 2012
Labour MP Trevor Mallard complains to local electoral officials, alleging Banks filed a false return. It is referred to police. Banks denies breaking the Local Electoral Act by failing to disclose it, saying his campaign treasurer handled donations and the return was accurate based on Mr Banks' knowledge when he signed it.

April 28
Kim Dotcom reveals he donated $50,000 to John Banks in 2010 and claims Banks asked him to split it into two and later thanked him for it. Banks says he does not remember.

July 26
Police finish investigation, no charges are laid against Mr Banks.

This month
The Government announces it will change the Local Electoral Act to ban anonymous donations of more than $1500 and prevent candidates being wilfully blind about donations.

The police file, including statements from Kim Dotcom, his bodyguard and his lawyer are released, claiming Mr Banks had known about the donation from Mr Dotcom.

- NZ Herald

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