29 Oct 2014

Appeal Court reserves Banks decision

6:27 pm on 29 October 2014

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on John Banks' legal challenge to his conviction for making a false electoral donation return over his failed bid for the Auckland mayoralty.

The former MP is seeking to overturn his conviction related to money that internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom donated to the campaign in 2010.

John Banks arriving at the Court of Appeal in Wellington.

John Banks arriving at the Court of Appeal in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

After being found guilty, Banks was sentenced to two months' community detention and ordered to carry out 100 hours of community work. His sentence has been suspended pending the outcome of his appeal.

A lawyer for Banks today suggested that Kim Dotcom and his wife Mona may have lied to the High Court about a luncheon his client attended at their home in Coatesville near Auckland.

At the court in Wellington today, Amanda Banks gave evidence about inquiries she made about two American businessmen who were at a lunch that she and her husband attended at the Dotcom mansion.

During Banks' trial it was said by the Dotcoms that the donations were discussed during that meal and only themselves and the Banks were present.

However, Ms Banks said that after the verdict she managed to find out the names of two American businessmen at the lunch and passed them on to her husband's lawyer. She admitted in cross-examination that could have been done before her husband went on trial.

The Court of Appeal judges questioned whether her evidence was actually fresh, but Banks' lawyer David Jones, QC, said it was relevant.

Mr Jones said that when questioned about the Americans' presence at the lunch, Mr Dotcom described that as "a fantasy".

However, he said it must now be a real concern that evidence shows the men were there throughout the lunch and they say they heard no conversation about donations to the mayoralty campaign.

Mr Jones said the trial judge found that the Americans were not present - but if they were and the Dotcoms claimed otherwise, that must affect the judge's findings relating to the credibility and reliability of what the Dotcoms said in court.

In submissions, Crown lawyer Paul Dacre said regardless of what the American businessmen say, John Banks had said the donations were discussed at some stage when he and his wife visited the Dotcoms.

Mr Dacre said that in referring to things which happened at the lunch Mr Dotcom may have been talking about the Banks' visit to his home generally.

He said while Kim and Mona Dotcom may be incorrect about where the conversation took place, that does not destroy the Crown case against John Banks.

Mr Dacre said when all the evidence before the court is considered, there is no reason to suggest that the trial judge would have come to a different conclusion.

In reply to a question from the judges, the Crown said a retrial should be ordered if the court found in favour of John Banks.

Banks' lawyer said that was what normally occurred, and his client would accept that if it was ordered.

After the hearing, Banks said that was what happened he would keep on fighting.

"If you don't give up in your heart, you've never given up, and I don't give up easily, and I haven't given up in my heart," he said.

"I've spent 36 years serving this country in the best possible way I can. I've given it my best shot, and one thing I don't do is file false electoral returns."

Mr Banks said he was pleased with how the hearing had gone and he was confident of being vindicated.

"I believe in doing things right and doing the right thing, by the public and by myself in particular," he said.

"I've spent my whole entire life doing good things for other people and one day I'm going to stand here and say 'I told you so'."

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