Kim Dotcom has been caught up in a political scandal that is plaguing the National-led coalition in New Zealand, with allegations that a minister may have broken election laws by not disclosing Dotcom’s donation to his unsuccessful mayoral campaign.
Yes, I know we haven’t looked at what’s happening across the Tasman for a long time.
The minister, John Banks – who is the Minister of Small Business and leader for the minor ACT Party – is said to have accepted a NZ$50,000 donation to his campaign to be mayor of Auckland back in 2010, and told Dotcom to split the payments to two NZ$25,000 donations – according to TV3’s Campbell Live programme, who broke the story on Friday after interviewing Dotcom.
Under New Zealand election laws, it is a criminal offence to classify an donations over $1,000 as anonymous if the candidate knows who is the donor.
Dotcom also alleges that two of the five NZ$25,000 anonymous donations were his, and that both knew each other.
While admitting that he knows Dotcom, Banks says he does not remember a conversation about donating to his campaign. “Well I met with them, I know them, but I can’t recall discussing money with them,” he told the programme.
Yesterday, on TVNZ’s Q+A programme (not the same as ABC1’s similarly-titled programme), Banks refused to answer questions about the scandal, except calling it as a “media beat-up”. “I can tell you that 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,” he said.
“I have nothing to fear and nothing to hide and I welcome the inquiry and everything will come out in the wash.”
New Zealand’s Labour Party leader David Shearer has called for Banks resignation, however Prime Minister John Key has said that he’s standing by the minister. Key added, “I accept him as a minister at his word. He has given me that assurance. If anyone believes it’s not correct they should go and talk to the police.”
Another Labour member, Trevor Mallard, is bringing the matter to the police today, according to TV3 News.
The scandal, unlike the ones plaguing the Gillard government recently, however won’t have any impact to his coalition. The House of Representatives has 121 seats (technically 120 seats, but has one overhang seat due to its voting system), and to govern need 61 seats. National already has 59 – two short of a majority – and has a confidence and supply agreement with ACT, United Future and Maori minor parties. If Banks does resign, it’s just one seat that can be sacrificed.
However, Dotcom has become a somewhat reoccurance in New Zealand politics. His residency status was called into question, while his own criminal case may not even occur in the United States after it was revealed that criminal papers have not been formally served. Then we have the paperwork errors on seizing his assets – which a High Court ruled that he could now access $750,000 of cash and cars.