Mona Dotcom stays loyal to ex
Kim Dotcom's estranged wife has supported his claim that John Banks asked for a political donation to be split into two cheques so it could be kept anonymous, but the details of their testimony don't line up.
In High Court in Auckland today, Mona Dotcom said she was present when the donation was discussed, despite Kim Dotcom yesterday telling the court she was not.
Banks, an MP and former ACT leader, is on trial for "transmitting a return of electoral expenses knowing that it is false in a material particular".
The charge relates to three entries in the electoral returns for Banks' failed 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign that were recorded as anonymous.
The Crown says Banks knew two donations of $25,000 were from Dotcom and one of $15,000 was from SkyCity.
Mona Dotcom said Banks and his wife visited the Dotcoms' Coatsville mansion in 2010. There, Kim Dotcom offered a $50,000 political donation to support Banks' bid to be mayor of the Auckland super-city.
Mona Dotcom said Banks told her husband he would not be able to help him in the future if his name was on the donation.
She said she was also present when Banks rang a few weeks later and thanked Dotcom for his donation.
Under cross-examination, Mona Dotcom said she was still loyal to her husband from whom she had recently separated, but not because her economic fortunes were tied to his.
She rejected a suggestion by defence lawyer David Jones, QC, that she had been told what to say by Kim Dotcom.
Mona Dotcom's evidence of being present during the donations discussions conflicted with Kim Dotcom's version yesterday.
Kim Dotcom had said his wife had left the lunch before the donation was discussed, but Mona Dotcom was adamant today that she was present.
She also said the staff member who made out the cheques was not there when others had testified he was.
"What's the matter? Are you forgetting your line?" Jones asked at one stage.
Kim Dotcom's lawyer, Greg Towers, told the court earlier today he had spoken to Banks by phone after Dotcom's arrest on criminal copyright charges.
The German was suffering from back pain due to the sleeping conditions in his Mt Eden prison cell and wanted someone to intervene.
Banks told Towers he had been approached the day before by minister Judith Collins over support for the Search and Surveillance Bill before Parliament.
Banks had said any attempt to intervene could "backfire" if Dotcom's "election support" was known, Towers said.
Banks advised Towers to make a formal request for assistance in Banks' capacity as the MP for Epsom.
Dotcom told the court yesterday that he offered Banks the $50,000 donation at a lunch at his Coatesville mansion.
Dotcom said Banks asked for it to be split into two cheques of $25,000.
In a fiery exchange, Jones said Dotcom was a "liar" and the allegation that Banks told him to split the cheques to keep them anonymous was false.
Dotcom strenuously denied that he was lying.
Jones said Dotcom was unhappy with the Government and he knew Banks held a crucial seat in Parliament.
He accused Dotcom of revising his story to destroy the MP.
"Mr Banks is lying, not me," Dotcom said.
Dotcom yesterday told the trial that Banks asked for the $50,000 in two cheques to preserve anonymity. This was corroborated by his bodyguard, Wayne Tempero, Mona Dotcom, and his former business manager, Grant McKavanagh.
All three said they were at the Dotcom 's Coatsville mansion when Banks requested the two cheques, but Banks' defence contested parts of their evidence.
David Jones, QC, suggested that the trio was following Kim Dotcom's instructions and giving a fabricated story.
He suggested that Tempero was following orders out of loyalty, that Mona Dotcom was taking part because her financial security depended on Kim Dotcom and that McKavanagh was following orders because he was owed $20,000 in back wages.
McKavanagh gave his police statement two days after meeting Kim Dotcom, despite having left his employ "acrimoniously" the year before.
His wages were settled "about a month ago", McKavanagh testified.
The former Megastuff chief financial officer gave police a detailed statement describing banking the cheques in Queenstown.
However, stamps on the cheques showed they were banked in Albany, Auckland.
Jones put it to McKavanagh that he was "tailoring" his account at the behest of his "good mate" Tempero.
However, McKavanagh would accept only that he got that aspect of his statement wrong.
"Mate, no-one has influenced me in any way, shape or form. And I got some things wrong."
The judge-alone trial before Justice Edwin Wylie is set down for two weeks.
SKYCITY DONATED 'OPENLY AND EVENLY'
Political consultant and former National Party president Michelle Boag told the court that SkyCity approached Banks in an effort to be "even-handed" in its political donations. It had already been approached by Len Brown, who subsequently won the election.
Boag solicited donations for Banks' bid to be mayor of the super-city.
SkyCity executives did not want the company's political donations to be anonymous, despite Banks' mayoral campaign declaring them as such, a court has heard.
SkyCity's former government affairs manager Andrew Gaukrodger said the company decided to give Banks' campaign the $15,000 after they did the same for the campaign of his rival, Len Brown.
The company made a conscious decision to give "openly and evenly" to both sides, he said.
"The company didn't want anonymity."
SkyCity general counsel Peter Treacy said the cheque was handed over at a lunch with Banks, Brown, and Nigel Morrison, the casino company's chief executive.