Donations engineered to be anonymous, court hears

MARIKA HILL AND STACEY KIRK
Last updated 21:09 19/05/2014

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Former ACT leader John Banks met with high-profile donors to "engineer" a way for their donations to be made anonymously, prosecutors say.

His court case was delayed this morning after an elderly man, later identified as elderly royal protester Sam Bracanov, threw a bucket of manure on the politician as he arrived at the High Court in Auckland.

Banks is facing charges relating to whether he knew the source of donations to his 2010 bid for the Auckland mayoralty. A $15,000 donation from SkyCity and two $25,000 cheques from internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom were recorded as anonymous.

Crown prosecutor Paul Dacre QC said Banks held separate meetings, one with Dotcom and another with a SkyCity executive, and asked each party to make donations in such a way that they would appear anonymous.

"He engineered the situation to ensure the identity of the donors would not be disclosed," Dacre said.

He said that during a lunch with Dotcom and his wife, Banks asked for a $50,000 donation to be split into two cheques.

Banks did not recall the other meeting with a SkyCity executive relating to donations, Dacre said.

Dotcom, his wife Mona, and SkyCity staff would be called as witnesses during the trial.

The defence will argue Banks believed the electoral expense returns were "true and correct" when filed.

Before the trial, Bracanov threw manure across Banks suit and then disappeared shortly afterwards. 

Banks returned to court wearing a clean suit an hour later. He said last night he would not press charges against Bracanov 

The trial is the result of a private prosecution brought by retired Wellington accountant Graham McCready.

Banks is charged with "transmitting a return of electoral expenses knowing that it is false in a material particular".

The High Court case is set down for 10 days.

Crown prosecutors will call 16 witnesses.

Banks quit ACT's leadership position and his ministerial role last year after he was ordered to stand trial.

Auckland police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said police were aware of the manure incident and were speaking to witnesses.

The man who threw it was not in police custody and they were making inquiries to establish his identity.

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