New Zealand MP to face charges in Dotcom donation

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WELLINGTON: A New Zealand MP allied to the government was Tuesday ordered to stand trial over fraud allegations involving donations from Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, and will have to leave parliament if found guilty.

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John Banks, who resigned as a minister in October when initially committed by a District Court to stand trial over the allegations, had his bid for a judicial review of the ruling tossed out by a High Court judge.

Banks is the sole MP of the ACT Party, which is in coalition with the National Party-led government.

The case centers on donations he received from Dotcom and the Sky City Casino in 2010 to help bankroll a failed bid to become Auckland mayor.

Banks had argued there were inaccuracies in the original judgment, but High Court judge Paul Heath found no basis to overturn the District Court decision.

“In my view, the errors of fact to which [Banks’ defense] drew attention are not sufficient to impugn the committal decision,” he said.

Dotcom told the October hearing that he donated NZ$50,000 ($42,000) to Banks, but the politician asked him to make two NZ$25,000 installments so the source of the funds could remain anonymous under campaign funding laws.

Although police examined the donations case last year, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to press charges, Banks was taken to court in a private prosecution by a Wellington accountant, Graham McCready.

Dotcom was close to Banks until his arrest for alleged online piracy in January 2012, when the German Internet tycoon accused the politician of abandoning him as US authorities prosecuted his Megaupload empire.

AFP

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