John Banks - Asshole of the Week | The Jackal

27 Apr 2012

John Banks - Asshole of the Week

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Auckland city mayor, the Hon. John Banks’ family trust had a 15.36 per cent shareholding in Sugar International Ltd and he was chairperson of its board. He was also executive director of Huljich Wealth Management (New Zealand) Ltd.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard has lodged an official complaint about Act leader John Banks failing to disclose a $15,000 donation was from SkyCity during his 2010 Auckland mayoralty campaign.

Mr Mallard lodged the complaint with the Auckland Council electoral officer this week. He also asked the electoral officer to scrutinise "anonymous" donations of radio advertising Mr Banks had included in his return.

SkyCity gave $15,000 each to Len Brown, now mayor, and Mr Banks, his rival, during that campaign.

Although Mr Brown's donation return listed SkyCity as a donor, Mr Banks' listed an anonymous donation of $15,000. It did not mention SkyCity.

It's likely John Banks intentionally tried to hide the $15,000 donation from SkyCity, but where he's really going to come unstuck is that if the donation was legitimately anonymous, the candidate must give the donation (less $1500) to the Electoral Commission within 20 working days. John Banks failed to do this and is therefore at least guilty of an illegal practice.

However I believe he willfully chose to not declare the SkyCity donation, and is therefore guilty of a corrupt practice. The Electoral Act 1993 (PDF) states:

224 Punishment for corrupt or illegal practice

(1)Every person who is guilty of any corrupt practice is liable on conviction on indictment to either or both of the following:
(a)a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years:
(b)a fine not exceeding—
(i)$100,000 in the case of a person who is a constituency candidate, party secretary, or registered promoter and who is convicted of any corrupt practice under Part 6A.

Politicians need to be held to account and the days of anonymous donations should be over. Businesses must not be allowed to purchase New Zealand's decision making process because of a few corrupt politicians.... it's highly damaging to our democracy.

Banks' hypocrisy concerning his support for the SkyCity deal to change gambling laws could not be more apparent. He had previously been strongly opposed to gambling, but has now said he's "relaxed" about more pokie machines in exchange for a convention centre. I wonder if the $15,000 helped his flip flop?

Mr Banks said he was not concerned about the complaint, dismissing it as Mr Mallard "up to his old timeless tricks".

He said he had not known at the time that the donation was from SkyCity and his donations return was accurate as at the date he signed it.

"I signed the document at the said time to the best of my knowledge."

Although SkyCity had subsequently publicly confirmed donations to both candidates he had not considered amending his return or asked further questions of his campaign team.

Earlier this month, Labour MP Grant Robertson questioned acting Prime Minister Bill English about Banks' undeclared donation, revealing that SkyCity would have requested the donation be made public.

Grant Robertson: Does he still stand by his answer that he has confidence in all his Ministers, given that the Hon John Banks failed to declare a $15,000 donation from Skycity in his electoral return for the Auckland mayoralty?

Hon Bill English: The Prime Minister is not aware of those issues, and the inquiry should be directed to the relevant Minister. The Prime Minister would expect that all Ministers comply with the requirements of the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament and the Cabinet Manual.

Grant Robertson: Would he still have confidence in the Hon John Banks as a Minister if he was aware that Skycity publicly stated that it had given $15,000 to both main mayoral candidates in Auckland, that it has a policy of asking those who get donations to declare them, and that that donation to Mr Banks does not appear in his return for the Auckland mayoralty expenses?

Clearly any Prime Minister with an ounce of credibility would not have confidence in John Banks. After all he's had previous form on dodgy dealings...

In 2007, John Banks, Peter Huljich and former National Party leader Don Brash set up Huljich Wealth Management Ltd., with Banks taking over the management role in October 2010. A month later, the Securities Commission laid criminal charges against the company now called HWM NZ Holdings, which resulted in a criminal conviction for Peter Huljich for misleading prospective investors by misrepresenting the investment performance of the scheme’s funds in offer documents.

Although he must have been aware of the disinformation in those offer documents, somehow Banks escaped prosecution for misleading investors, perhaps because there was very little mainstream media attention given at the time to his involvement in the scam.

I'm hoping that the Auckland Council electoral office will hold Banks to account... but for now he's this weeks Asshole Award recipient. Hurrah!