New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said allegations that a coalition ally and minister failed to disclose political donations from Megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom are a matter for the police.
John Banks, leader of the one-seat ACT party that supports Key in parliament, received NZ$50,000 ($41,000) from Dotcom to help fund his unsuccessful 2010 bid for the Auckland mayoralty, TV3 reported on April 27, citing an interview with Dotcom. Banks incorrectly reported the donations as anonymous, TV3 said. The politician has denied any wrongdoing.
Key sought ACT’s support in his campaign for re-election last year, appearing to endorse Banks over his own National Party’s candidate to ensure backing for votes on crucial issues including the sale of state-owned assets. New Zealand’s so-called mixed member proportional system typically forces the most popular party to align with smaller rivals to govern.
“If somebody thinks that John Banks isn’t telling the truth, they have a very simple remedy -- they go to the police,” Key said in a Television New Zealand interview today. “That’s not my job to do a forensic investigation.”
Auckland police said they will investigate a complaint over the donation they received from a member of the public.
Dotcom is accused of orchestrating the biggest copyright infringement conspiracy in U.S. history and is awaiting an extradition hearing in New Zealand, scheduled for August. He was arrested at his Auckland residence in January and spent four weeks in jail before being released on bail.
Small Business Minister
Banks, who represents the Auckland seat of Epsom, was appointed by Key as Minister for Small Business and Regulatory Reform after last year’s election.
“When I signed my declaration for the mayoralty I signed it in good faith in the knowledge as a justice of the peace as true and correct,” Banks said on Television New Zealand yesterday. “I have nothing to fear and nothing to hide.”
New Zealand’s electoral law allowed for anonymous donations to a maximum of NZ$1,000 at the time of the 2010 election. The limit has now been raised to NZ$1,500 and any contributions above NZ$30,000 within a 12 month period must be disclosed to authorities. Concealing the identity of a donor when the donor isn’t anonymous is an offense, according to the law.