Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Solicitor General considers John Banks case

Act Party leader John Banks. File photo / Mark Mitchell
Act Party leader John Banks. File photo / Mark Mitchell

The Solicitor General is considering taking over the prosecution of John Banks on a charge of knowingly filing a false election return.

Banks was committed to trial yesterday on the charge, taken in a private prosecution by Wellington man Graham McCready. The Act party leader resigned his ministerial portfolios shortly afterward.

Mr McCready was contacted by Solicitor General Michael Heron, QC, yesterday saying he was now reconsidering intervening in the case in light of Banks' committal.

The potential for Crown Law to take over prosecution was welcomed by Mr McCready, despite saying yesterday he thought the Crown had a conflict of interest in the case.

"What we've decided is we'll let them do it and we'll see what happens,'' he said.

He said it would free up the New Zealand Private Prosecution Service resources to pursue other cases.

Banks' press secretary said he was aware of the situation, and it didn't change anything. He had nothing further to add.

The Act leader is alleged to have knowingly filed a false election return following his 2010 failed Auckland mayoral bid.

Two $25,000 donations from Kim Dotcom's company, and a $15,000 donation from SkyCity were declared as anonymous, but evidence was given in court that both donations were given to Banks personally.

His lawyer, David Jones, QC, argued in court that he could not have known the return was false as he hadn't read the five pages of donations.

Banks was committed to trial following an oral evidence hearing in Auckland District Court yesterday.

Judge Phil Gittos said sufficient evidence had been presented to commit the defendant to trial.

Banks told reporters outside the Auckland District Court after the decision was announced that he wouldn't step down, but a short time later announced he would resign his ministerial portfolios pending the outcome of the case.

A trial date would be set at his next appearance in court on December 17, and is likely to be set down for mid-2014.

Mr Banks' ministerial portfolios have been handed to ministers Steven Joyce and Bill English, Prime Minister John Key announced this afternoon.

Mr Banks' small business portfolio has been given to Mr Joyce, and the regulatory reform portfolio will be taken up by Mr English.

- NZ Herald

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