Character witnesses praise John Banks

By Jimmy Ellingham

John Banks. Photo / Brett Phibbs
John Banks. Photo / Brett Phibbs

After a week of prosecution witnesses calling his character into question, friends and associates of Act MP John Banks today praised his honesty and integrity.

"I actually would say that's what defines John, as I know he held it in such high regard," philanthropist and public servant Dame Jenny Gibbs said when asked about those character traits.

"In any conversation he would tell me he's appalled by dishonesty, he's appalled by lack of integrity. I literally would say that's what defines John."

As Dame Jenny entered and exited the witness box in the High Court at Auckland, Banks stood for her.

She was one of several character witnesses called by Banks' defence team as the Act Party MP defends a charge of filing a false electoral return where he allegedly knowingly received political donations from Kim Dotcom and SkyCity that were recorded as anonymous.

The allegations against Banks relate to two $25,000 donations from Megastuff Ltd on Mr Dotcom's behalf in June 2010 and $15,000 from SkyCity in May that year when Banks was making an unsuccessful tilt at the Auckland mayoralty.

Dame Jenny said she knew Banks came from a tough background ? his dad had done jail time and a young Banks had slept rough under bridges.

"I know him always as someone who was determined to overcome that and create and honorable life and life of public service."

Patricia White, who along with her late husband Tony founded Tony's Restaurant on Wellesley St, Auckland, remembered Banks starting work there as a dish washer. He worked his way up to be a partner in the business, Mrs White said.

David Hay was Auckland deputy mayor under Banks between 2001 and 2004 and 2007 and 2010. He said Banks was committed to the job and "called a spade a spade".

The first witness called today before Justice Edwin Wylie, who is hearing the case with no jury, was Banks' 2010 campaign PR man Scott Campbell.

He recalled being passed a SkyCity envelope by Banks one day in May 2010. Banks told him to pass it to campaign treasurer Lane Hutchison.

Yesterday SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison said he had a short meeting with Banks and handed him a $15,000 cheque in an envelope.

Banks did not give evidence but the court was last week played a lengthy interview he had with police in 2012. The defence case has no closed and after a break tomorrow Crown prosecutor Paul Dacre, QC, and defence lawyer David Jones, QC, will make their closing statements on Thursday.


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