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ACT leader John Banks to face trial

AMY MAAS
Last updated 17:44 03/12/2013
John Banks
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ

COURT DATE: John Banks speaking outside the High Court in Auckland.

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A second judge has ordered ACT leader John Banks to stand trial for knowingly filing a false electoral return next year.

The decision, released this afternoon, came after Banks appeared last week in the High Court in Auckland where he sought a review of the initial District Court decision for him to stand trial.

He will stand trial over how donations to his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign were recorded.

After his High Court hearing last week, Banks said he was not worried about the outcome as he had done nothing wrong.

"Everyone who knows me knows I've spent a lifetime of doing good, a lifetime of trying to balance my family ledger, a lifetime of making a difference to people and a lifetime of contributing to this country," he said.

"I only do good. I don't do bad things."

Although Banks resigned as a Government minister in October after Auckland District Court judge Phil Gittos ruled he should face trial, he has remained the leader of the ACT party.

The ACT party is in coalition with the National Party.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key said: "Mr Banks is no longer a minister. The matter is still before the courts so it would be inappropriate for the prime minister to comment."

Judge Gittos ruled Banks should face trial over the campaign donations – two of $25,000 from internet mogul Kim Dotcom and a $15,000 cheque from SkyCity – that were recorded as anonymous.

The ruling came after a private prosecution brought by retired accountant Graham McCready. He said Banks knew the donations to the mayoral campaign were not made anonymously and that designating them as such was against the law.

Banks has pleaded not guilty.

Last week, his lawyer, David Jones, QC, told the High Court that the District Court decision was "fundamentally flawed". It had implied that Banks knew the contents of what was in the electoral return before signing it.

Banks said he had no knowledge donors had been listed as anonymous on a donation-return form because he hadn't read the form before signing it.

In the District Court, Dotcom gave evidence that Banks asked him to split a $50,000 donation in two so that each cheque could be listed as anonymous.

He added that when he asked why the donations were to be listed as anonymous, Banks told him: "Kim, if I help you in the future it's better no-one knows about your donation."

After the case was committed for trial, Solicitor-General Michael Heron, QC, took over the prosecution.

Banks is due to appear in court at 9am on December 11.

If Banks was convicted, the Epsom electoral seat he holds would be declared vacant and he would no longer be an MP.

The trial will be held in the High Court due to the public interest in the trial, which could have an impact on the result of the general election in 2014, Justice Heath said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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