Judge calls Banks to court over donations

MORE QUESTIONS: Kim Dotcom's cheques could bounce back at John Banks.
MORE QUESTIONS: Kim Dotcom's cheques could bounce back at John Banks.

ACT leader John Banks could be forced to answer questions in court over the Kim Dotcom donations saga.

A judge has summoned Mr Banks to appear in Wellington District Court next month, after retired accountant Graham McCready launched a private prosecution on a charge of knowingly filing a false election return.

District Court judge Ian Mill ruled there was enough evidence to allow the action.

Police will now serve Mr Banks with a summons to appear on December 11. The offence carries a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment.

And Mr McCready will ask the court to impose bail restrictions on Mr Banks which would prevent him contacting any witnesses, including Labour MP Trevor Mallard, who made the original complaint.

Yesterday Mr Banks labelled the legal action "an attention- seeking stunt" and said it was a waste of taxpayers' money and the court's time. A spokeswoman could not say whether Mr Banks would appear in person or instruct his lawyer.

Mr Banks has always maintained he has nothing to hide over the donations.

Internet mogul Dotcom says he gave Mr Banks $50,000, in two $25,000 cheques, towards his mayoral campaign. Police files also revealed Mr Banks was handed a $15,000 cheque by SkyCity executives in a branded envelope. But all three donations were registered as anonymous.

Mr Banks told lawyer Greg Towers in February that he could not back Dotcom publicly because of his previous "support" during the election campaign, the files reveal.

Police investigated but said that, although local electoral laws were broken, they did not have enough evidence to prosecute.

The release of the police dossier prompted Mr McCready, of Wellington, to file a submission to the court.

He pointed to a witness statement from Dotcom which says Mr Banks asked for the donation to be split in two, and a subsequent call to thank him for the gift. He referred to Mr Towers' statement to police and to statements from SkyCity employees.

"In my view, if Mr McCready can present evidence that reflects these allegations, then there is a sufficient case to be tested in court," the judge wrote.

Mr McCready has also applied to the chief electoral officer to disclose the election return filed by Mr Banks. And he wants Mr Banks' statement to police released. Mr Banks has refused permission for it to be made public.

Mr McCready previously brought a private prosecution after Mr Mallard had a punchup in 2007 with National MP Tau Henare.

Mr Mallard was convicted of fighting in a public place and ordered to pay $500 to a drug and alcohol programme.

Mr McCready, who was convicted of filing false tax claims in 2009, shrugged off Mr Banks' comments saying he should "alter his attitude".

"He makes the mistake of thinking he is dealing with me when in fact Judge Mills has summonsed him to appear and he is now a defendant in a criminal case."

The bail conditions he was asking for are "the usual conditions that are often imposed on a defendant facing an indictable charge".

The Dominion Post