Lawyer stands by statement on donations

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 08:48 19/09/2012

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The lawyer at the centre of new claims about the Dotcom donations is standing by his statement to police.

Auckland commercial lawyer Greg Towers says John Banks told him he could not help Kim Dotcom publicly because of Dotcom's "support" for his 2010 campaign to be super-city mayor.

Opposition parties have seized on the evidence as crucial because two months later Banks said he couldn't remember talking to Dotcom about campaign donations.

A police investigation into $80,000 of "anonymous" donations - including $50,000 from Dotcom and $15,000 from the SkyCity casino - was concluded in July. Towers' sworn statement was released with police files last week.

Prime Minister John Key - who has refused to read the 126-page police dossier - brushed off the lawyer's statement yesterday. "He wouldn't necessarily lie but he may well have a different interpretation of the facts," he said.

Towers kept a written note of his February 8 telephone conversation with Banks. He said yesterday he stood by the sworn statement he made during a police interview in May.

He contacted Banks to ask for assistance in getting a mattress for Dotcom, who was then in Mt Eden prison on US anti-piracy charges and suffering back pain.

"John Banks said that as much as [he] wished to publicly support Kim, that may backfire on Kim if it became known about the election support," Towers told police.

Towers, a partner in Simpson Grierson, also told police he was unaware of any donation from Dotcom to Banks' campaign.

Key faced a grilling in Parliament over the saga yesterday. He is refusing to sack his coalition partner because he says Banks complied with the law.

Labour's deputy leader, Grant Robertson, said police found Banks' electoral return was false and the law was breached. "Why is he arguing that John Banks has done everything in accordance with the law?" Robertson asked.  Key replied: "Because that fact is not proven."

NZ First leader Winston Peters was not satisfied with Key's assertion that he was taking Banks at his word. "Frankly, I think that if the prime minister can get away with that, he might as well just get up and say rhubarb," he said.

Meanwhile, Banks faces a private prosecution by retired accountant Graham McCready "for allegedly making a false election return".

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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