David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Ruling tells of Banks' memory lapse

Excerpts from MP's three-hour interview with police show no recollection of meeting or receiving cheque.

The judgment revealed details from Mr Banks' three-hour interview with police - never before made public. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The judgment revealed details from Mr Banks' three-hour interview with police - never before made public. Photo / Mark Mitchell

An attempt by John Banks to avoid trial over an alleged false electoral return has failed - although the effort to get the case tossed out has exposed new memory lapses by Act's only MP.

In a judgment knocking back an attempt to have the case dismissed, evidence emerged of Mr Banks' claim not to remember key details of the meetings at which donations were said to have been arranged from SkyCity and Kim Dotcom.

Mr Banks had asked the High Court to toss the case out, saying there was no evidence to show he knew the electoral return for the 2010 Super City mayoral race was wrong at the time he signed it.

But Justice Edwin Wylie - who will hear the case - said if evidence before him emerged as described by the Crown at trial, it would be possible to "reasonably conclude that Mr Banks knew that the returns were false". It was possible the opposite conclusion could be drawn, but the case would have to go to trial, he said.

The judgment revealed details from Mr Banks' three-hour interview with police - never before made public.

Excerpts from the interview featured in relation to the two donations over which questions had emerged - a $15,000 donation from SkyCity and two $25,000 cheques from internet tycoon Kim Dotcom.

Evidence from SkyCity chief Nigel Morrison told of meeting Mr Banks, handing over an envelope bearing the casino logo and containing a cheque. The account was supported by Mr Morrison's executive assistant.

But Justice Wylie referred to Mr Banks' police interview, in which the MP said "he has no recollection of the meeting, or of receiving any cheque from Mr Morrison".

In relation to the Dotcom donation, Justice Wylie said the tycoon's evidence - backed by wife Mona and a bodyguard - was of offering $50,000 and being asked by Mr Banks to split it into two cheques so he did not have to declare its origins.

In contrast, Mr Banks told police he asked for $25,000 but could not recall whether Mr Dotcom said "yes, I'll support you" or "no".

Justice Wylie said if it was proved Mr Banks knew of the donations, it would hinge on whether he had passed the information to his campaign team, particularly treasurer Lance Hutchison, who completed the electoral return.

Quizzed by police over what he told his team about Dotcom, Mr Banks said he told them nothing. Asked why, he told police: "Well, I wanted him to make it, ah, and I, I told him he could make it anonymous."

There was also evidence from Michelle Boag, a member of Mr Banks' campaign team and former National Party president, who said she asked him about SkyCity. She said Banks did not want her to talk to SkyCity.

Justice Wylie said if the Crown evidence emerged as forecast at trial, there was enough to find Mr Banks wanted the donations to be anonymous, and knew they would be listed that way because he had kept Mr Hutchison "in the dark".

Countdown to court

2010
October: John Banks runs for the Super City mayoralty, losing to Len Brown. Mr Banks declares $948,937 in donations, against Mr Brown's $581,900.

2012
April: It emerges SkyCity and internet tycoon Kim Dotcom both believe they donated to Mr Banks' campaign - but neither is listed as a donor.
December: Pensioner and frequent litigant Graeme McCready takes a private prosecution against Mr Banks for filing a false return.

2013
October: Mr Banks resigns as a minister of the Crown after a judge rules the private prosecution must go to trial. The Crown Law Office takes over the prosecution.

2014
April: An application to have the charge dismissed is thrown out.
May: The trial is scheduled to take place over 10 days.

- NZ Herald

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