The American witnesses

The Herald reports:

What is labelling compelling new evidence for an appeal against his criminal conviction is believed to be sworn statements from two Americans whose presence at the critical donation lunch was a key issue at his trial. …

Justice Edwin Wylie had found him guilty of filing the return without recording the origin of two $25,000 donations from entrepreneur , who is facing extradition to the United States.

His judgment hinged on the credibility of witnesses’ evidence, telling the court he did not accept evidence from Banks or his wife, Amanda.

Outside the High Court at Auckland yesterday, Banks said: “Since the finding of guilt, fresh, new, unimpeachable, watertight evidence has emerged. That new evidence completely contradicts much of the evidence given in the court.

“We’re looking forward to taking that … to the Court of Appeal.”

The Weekend Herald has learned details of the evidence that will be put before the Court of Appeal in a bid to have Banks’ conviction overturned.

Evidence was given by the Dotcom camp, saying there were American guests on the grounds of the mansion on the day of the lunch but Mr Dotcom, estranged wife Mona and security chief Wayne Tempero said they were not at lunch when the donations were discussed.

The claims were contradicted by Banks in his police interview and Mrs Banks from the witness box. Both insisted there were two others at the lunch – businessmen Mrs Banks believed were Americans. Banks was unsure of their nationality.

Justice Wylie, who also took other evidence into account, said he believed the Dotcoms and did not accept the Banks’ statements.

He also said it was “largely peripheral” because “the key issue was what was said at the lunch”.

In the wake of the judgment, it is understood Banks launched a search for the American guests.

They were eventually tracked to a company in the United States which was a supplier for Mr Dotcom’s defunct website Megaupload, which was brought down in the copyright raid that led to his arrest and possible extradition.

Banks’ team was believed to have sought statements from them.

The new evidence claim was unusually raised by David Jones, QC, in his sentencing submissions to Justice Wylie yesterday. Mr Jones did not return calls but is understood to be filing the appeal papers next week.

Mr Dotcom said last night: “From my recollection, there was no one else at the lunch where the donations were discussed.”

It will be utterly fascinating to learn what these two witnesses have to say.

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