'I haven't committed any offence': ACT leader
ACT leader John Banks says he has not committed "any offence" after protesting his innocence in a private prosecution at the Auckland District Court today over political donations.
Banks faces a charge of filing a false electoral return following his failed 2010 bid for the Auckland City mayoralty.
In court today, Banks' lawyer, David Jones QC indicated his client would defend the charge because the prosecution was flawed.
Banks was forced to stand in the dock during proceedings and was not allowed to formally enter his not-guilty plea to the charge until a plea inquiry hearing on May 30.
Outside court, Banks said he took the allegations against him seriously, as his appearance at court proved.
"No-one is against [sic] the law," he said.
"I've been summonsed to appear today. I will defend the charge because I haven't committed any offence," Banks said.
He added that he was "not fearful of any of this" and took a stab at the informant, Graham McCready, labelling him a "convicted criminal".
Banks would not comment further on the allegations made against him.
The unusual prosecution was brought by retired accountant McCready who also made several applications in Wellington in December, including disclosure of an electoral document and disclosure from police.
Banks challenged the validity of the summons.
When the case was first called at the Wellington District Court in December, Judge Jill Moss told McCready the court had no jurisdiction to hear anything about disclosure of information by police, and he would have to go to the ombudsman over Official Information Act requests.
She pointed out he had been sent letter telling him that.
However, Judge Moss was not willing to withdraw the information against Banks.
The application was first laid in Auckland, which is why Banks was summoned there today.
Court documents show that Banks was charged that on or about December 9, 2010 he knowingly filed a false return for the Auckland 2010 Super City election.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
Internet mogul Kim Dotcom said he gave Banks $50,000 in two $25,000 cheques toward the end of his 2010 Auckland mayoralty campaign. Police files revealed Banks was also handed a $15,000 cheque by Sky City executives in a branded envelope.
All three donations were listed as anonymous.
Police at the time investigated the donations but said that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Banks.
McCready, who was convicted of filing false tax claims in 2009, previously brought a private prosecution after Labour MP Trevor Mallard had an altercation in 2007 with National MP Tau Henare.
Mallard was convicted of fighting in a public place and ordered to pay $500 to a drug and alcohol programme.