Banks questioned over Dotcom donation

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 10:36 28/04/2012
John Banks
ON EDGE: If found to have breached the law, John Banks might have to quit Parliament.

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Police could be called in to investigate fresh allegations swirling around John Banks'  failed Auckland mayoralty campaign after Labour MP Trevor Mallard said he would be lodging an official complaint over an alleged donation by German billionaire Kim Dotcom.

TV3's Campbell Live last night reported allegations from the Dotcom camp that Banks knew about a $50,000 donation later listed as anonymous.

Allegations that Banks also knew about a Sky City donation, also listed as anonymous, have already been referred to police after a complaint by Mallard.

Campbell Live said it had been told by Dotcom that when Banks was running for the mayoralty he had raised the subject of campaign donations with the German millionaire.

Dotcom is currently on bail and facing extradition proceedings over piracy claims lodged by American authorities.

Dotcom told Campbell Live he immediately offered Banks $50,000 and Banks gratefully accepted his officer. But he asked for the donation to be split into two payments of $25,000 each.

There was no donation from Dotcom listed on Banks' returns but there were five anonmymous donations of $25,000, Campbell Live said.

Banks could not be contacted this morning.

But he told Campbell Live he had no recollection of discussing a donation with Dotcom.

Banks has already been referred to police over an anonymous donation of $15,0000, which Mallard says came from Sky City.

Electoral officer Bruce Thomas said yesterday he was obliged by law to refer any written complaints of an offence to police.

Mallard alleges Banks failed to declare the donation and that was a breach of the law.

Thomas said under the electoral act an anonymous donation was defined as any donation "that is made in such a way that the candidate concerned does not know who made the donation".

"The electoral expenses and donations return for John Banks ... included references to a number of anonymous and named donations with specified amounts."

Banks said if Sky City had given him $15,000 it must have been done anonymously and would have been declared as such.

"I'm very grateful.

"I received hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars every night of the week anonymously from people into our bank account and as you know under the Act it's quite in order."

In total, Banks received about $980,000 in donations. This morning, Mallard said he would be writing again to the Electoral Officer over the Dotcom donation.

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"Banks appears to have a total misunderstanding of what an anonymous donation is."

If found to have breached the law, Banks might have to quit Parliament - and that would force a by-election in his Epsom seat.

If Banks goes, ACT would disappear from Parliament as he  is its sole surviving MP. That would change the make-up of Parliament and the numbers would work in National's favour because it would be confident of its candidate Paul Goldsmith winning there, assuming there is no other strong centre-right candidate. That would then bring another National MP into Parliament off the list, shoring up National's majority.

But it would be reliant on the Maori Party during any by-election campaign, which would be up to four weeks, and that might jeopardise its ability to pass legislation on asset sales, or other measures the Maori Party opposes.

- The Dominion Post

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