Rain still falls on John Banks
It came down to John Banks' word against Kim Dotcom's, and a High Court judge sided with the German.
Banks, the MP for Epsom and the former leader of the ACT Party, was yesterday found guilty of knowingly transmitting a false electoral return in his campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.
Before a public gallery packed with Right-wing supporters and Left-wing agitators, Justice Edwin Wylie said he considered that, generally, Dotcom, his estranged wife, Mona, and his head of security, Wayne Tempero, were ''reliable and credible witnesses''.
Their evidence - that Banks went to Dotcom's north Auckland mansion and asked for a donation of $50,000 to be split into two cheques so it could be kept anonymous - was denied by Banks, but the judge preferred their account anyway.
Justice Wylie said the Dotcom witnesses were subjected to ''fierce cross-examination'' but none of them buckled.
He did not accept Banks' statement to police or his wife's evidence that there were other people at the lunch where the donations were solicited.
He rejected the suggestion from Banks' defence team that Dotcom had orchestrated a conspiracy to bring down the Government and he said Dotcom's lawyer GregTowers had provided ''compelling'' corroborating evidence.
''[Towers] said that Mr Banks told him that as much as he wished to publicly support Mr Dotcom, it might backfire on Mr Dotcom if ''it becomes known about the election support etc','' Justice Wylie said.
Banks stood impassively in the dock as the judge pronounced: ''Mr Banks, I find you guilty of the charge''.
He now faces up to two years in prison, though the judge asked for a report on the suitability of home detention for the August 1 sentencing.
Banks' lawyer David Jones, QC, asked that a conviction not be entered, signalling that the defence could apply for a discharge without conviction, and Justice Wylie remanded Banks at large before his sentencing.
Banks spoke to his supporters quietly with his lawyers by his side after the verdict was delivered, telling them it was not the end.
''We've got to push on,'' he said.
Outside court, Banks said he was disappointed and surprised by the verdict and his team would be looking at his legal options.
''There's a wonderful 1930s song, On To Every Life Some Rain Must Fall, and for me the rain is still falling,'' he said.
Asked if he accepted that he had done something wrong Banks said: ''From day one I have told you I have never filed a false anything let alone a false return.''
He declined to comment further and was pursued down the street by a mob of reporters.
The charge of ''transmitting a return of electoral expenses knowing that it is false in a material particular'' related to three entries in the electoral returns for Banks' failed 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign.
The donations were recorded as anonymous, but the Crown said Banks knew two donations of $25,000 each were from internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and one of $15,000 was from SkyCity.
The judge did not find the charge proved in relation to the Sky City donation as he could not exclude that Banks' campaign treasurer had recorded it as anonymous without Banks' knowledge.
He was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Banks either had actual knowledge that the other return was false - because he knew he had not given his team the information required for it to be accurate - or he ''deliberately chose not to check the return to see whether the Dotcom donations were properly disclosed ... because he wanted to remain in ignorance''.
A jubilant Dotcom took to Twitter after the verdict quoting the judge: ''Justice Edwin Wylie: ''Kim Dotcom and his wife were reliable witnesses.'' #JohnBanksGuilty'' he wrote.
''Shame on the New Zealand Police for not charging John Banks or the GCSB and its spies for their criminal conduct.''
Retired accountant Graham McCready, whose private prosecution of Banks led to the hearing, said he was ''stoked'' at the verdict.
''I always said it's never over until the fat man sings Mozart, so here you go,'' he said.
He launched into song, singing: ''Banks you're convicted'' for assembled media.
McCready said private prosecutions were an important check and balance on the system but he would be giving them up due to ill-health.
Anti-corruption activist Penny Bright said it was a ''disgrace'' that it had taken a private citizen to get the matter to trial.
She called for an independent commission against corruption.
''When it comes to political corruption neither Serious Fraud nor police want to take these matters up.
''Justice has been done today and that's because the world was watching.''