1 Aug 2014

Banks to appeal with new evidence

9:47 pm on 1 August 2014

Former ACT Party leader John Banks must do community service and be on a curfew for four nights of the week after being found guilty of making a false electoral donation claim.

But Banks says he has new "unimpeachable" evidence that will overturn his conviction on the charge stemming from his unsuccessful bid to be Auckland's mayor in 2010.

The veteran politician and former Cabinet Minister was found guilty at the High Court in Auckland in June this year. On Friday, he was sentenced to 100 hours of community work and an overnight curfew of four nights a week for two months.

  • John Banks speaks to media outside court

Outside court, Banks told reporters he was innocent and would lodge an appeal with fresh, "watertight" evidence, but did not reveal details.

"Fresh, new, unimpeachable, watertight evidence has emerged. That new evidence completely contradicts much of the evidence given in the court in front of the judge on which I was convicted."

Banks described the three-year court process as a punishment for him and his family.

In sentencing, Justice Wylie said recording political donations was critical to the democratic process. He said Banks told the Probation Service that the past year had been humiliating on an incremental basis.

Banks' lawyer David Jones, QC, told the court his client maintained his innocence but had resigned from Parliament because it was the honourable thing to do. He said Banks had paid a high price and asked for a fine.

Bur Crown prosecutor Paul Dacre, QC, said Banks had shown premeditation. However, the Crown accepted that a community-based sentence could be appropriate.

Justice Wylie said Banks' conviction had brought anguish to his family - and particularly his wife, who had moved to Otago while Banks now lived alone in an inner-city apartment. The judge said Banks' offending was against the entire community.

John Banks in the High Court at Auckland.

John Banks in the High Court at Auckland. Photo: RNZ

Banks' charge, $45,000 in costs sought

John Banks' offence carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000. The charge relates to a donation from internet businessman Kim Dotcom.

Mr Dotcom told the trial that when he offered the donation to Banks, the politician had "big eyes" but asked for the cheque to be split into two amounts of $25,000.

Kim Dotcom.

Kim Dotcom gave evidence at the trial. Photo: AFP

That version of events was largely supported by Mr Dotcom's estranged wife, Mona Dotcom, and his head of security Wayne Tempero.

In his finding, Justice Wylie said it was reasonable to infer that Banks asked for the cheque to be split into two lots because he had other donations for the same amount and it would not stick out on his donations return.

The case started when police decided there was no basis to lay charges. But Graham McCready from Wellington brought a private prosecution and the case then went through the District Court before being sent to the High Court for trial.

Ordering Banks to pay a fine was an option for the High Court judge, but Mr McCready said on Friday that would have meant little to Banks.

"The judge very clearly and carefully analysed the situation and I think he came up with the appropriate verdict. A fine wouldn't - it'd be like paying a parking ticket. Community detention and community service is is very appropriate."

Mr McCready is seeking $45,000 in costs from Banks and if he's granted this, then half the money would go to charity.

"We're claiming $45,000 - which anyone would say is very cheap, given the amount of time we put into it. The actual costs is more like $100,000. If you took my time at $200 an hour, which is also cheap, we get to that sort of figure quite quickly."

A hearing will consider Mr McCready's claim.

Newspaper also called to court

Justice Wylie had also invited the editor of the New Zealand Herald to court to explain an article that ran in July this year about a poll asking people what sentence they believe Banks should get. The story has since been pulled from the paper's website.

In a minute released to Radio New Zealand News, the judge pointed out that the case was still before the court and the article could be in contempt. Justice Wylie referenced the book Media Law in New Zealand by Professor John Burrows and Ursula Cheer, which says polling on appropriate sentences is "risky at least".

End of Parliamentary career

The case effectively marks the end of John Banks' political career that began in the 1970s. He started in local body politics before unsuccessfully running for the National Party in 1978.

Three years later, he won the Whangarei seat and held it until 1999. During that time he held Cabinet portfolios including Police, Local Government and Civil Defence.

Banks was also mayor of Auckland twice and later became the MP for Epsom and leader of the ACT Party.

ACT leader Jamie Whyte said on Friday that Banks was not an ACT MP at the time in question, but admits the case has not been good. "That was unfortunate for the ACT Party - there's no doubt about it. I considered the matter done and settled when he got convicted and now he's been sentenced."

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said on Friday it's a sad but just end to a long political career and Banks should accept his sentence and move on. Mr Cunliffe said it's also reminder of the deal National did with ACT to get Banks elected in Epsom in 2011, and of a manipulation of the democratic process that kept National in power.

Former ACT leader John Banks heads into the High Court at Auckland to be sentenced.

Former ACT leader John Banks heads into the High Court at Auckland to be sentenced. Photo: RNZ


1946 - John Banks is born in Wellington on 2 December. He is abandoned as a baby and raised by foster parents.

John Banks speaking in Parliament.

ACT MP John Banks speaking in Parliament, 2014. Photo: RNZ

1977 - Enters local politics after running for the Birkenhead Borough Council.

1978 - Unsuccessfully stands for the National Party in the 1978 election after time in local government.

1981 - Wins Whangarei seat and holds it until 1999.

1990 - Becomes Cabinet minister in Bolger administration, holding Police, Tourism and Sport and Recreation positions.

1993 - Becomes Minister of Local Government.

1996 - Becomes Minister of Civil Defence.

1996 - John Banks is left out of the National - New Zealand First coalition government and devotes increasing time to his radio talkback show.

1999 - Does not seek re-election for National.

2000 - John Banks is awarded a QSO for public service.

Epsom MP John Banks, left, and Don Brash on election night.

John Banks and Don Brash. Photo: RNZ

2001 - Becomes the mayor of Auckland City but loses the local body election in 2004.

2005 - Is courted by the Act Party for the general election but support for his candidacy falters when he demands a high ranking.

2007 - Returns to be the Auckland City mayor.

2010 - Mounts a failed campaign to become mayor of the new Auckland supercity, meets Kim Dotcom at the internet businessman's Coatesville mansion.

2011 - Makes a decision to stand for Parliament again after Don Brash takes over ACT Party leadership.

2011 - John Banks meets John Key for an infamous cup of tea in Newmarket.

John Banks meets with John Key at a cafe in Newmarket.

John Banks and John Key at the cafe in November 2011.

John Banks meets with John Key in Newmarket, 2011. Photo: RNZ

2011 - Becomes Minister of Regulatory Reform, and Minister for Small Business as well as Associate Minister for Commerce and Education.

2011 - John Banks is made CNZM for services to local government.

2012 - John Banks is named as the ACT Party's new leader.

2012 - Amid pressure from the Opposition, the Prime Minister refuses to stand John Banks down while he's investigated over the donations and says Mr Banks had not broken the law. But Mr Banks is interviewed by the police.

2012 - The police say there's insufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Banks.

2013 - Graham McCready brings a private prosecution.

John Banks.

A protester throws mud as John Banks arrives at court. Photo: RNZ / Kate Newton

2013 - Both the Auckland District Court and High Court in Auckland say John Banks should stand trial. The High Court said the trial should be given priority because it could have an impact on the general election. Other MPs call for Mr Banks' resignation and say his political career is all but over. He resigns as a minister, which sparks a snap debate in Parliament. Mr Banks announces he will stand down as the ACT Party leader and won't contest the Epsom seat.

2014 - John Banks faces an almost two week trial at the High Court in Auckland on one charge of transmitting a return of electoral expenses while knowing it was false.

June 5, 2014 - John Banks is found guilty at the Auckland High Court of filing a false electoral return.

August 1, 2014 - John Banks is sentenced to two months' community detention and 100 hours of community service on the electoral return charge. He vows to appeal against the sentence.