In court ... Kim Dotcom. Photo: AFP
Three months after dozens of armed police swooped on Kim Dotcom's Auckland mansion, arresting him and several of his colleagues, allegations by the German-born internet tycoon about political donations threaten to destabilise New Zealand's governing coalition.
It comes after a US judge overseeing the copyright infringement case against Dotcom expressed doubt that it would ever make it to court, with questions over whether he was appropriately served with criminal papers.
The donations scandal centres on a donation Dotcom says he made to John Banks, currently minister for small business and regulatory reform, during an unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.
The Dotcom Mansion, home of Kim Dotcom. Photo: Reuters
Banks, who was elected to parliament a year later, had asked Dotcom to split a suggested NZ$50,000 donation into two parts, so that it would fall beneath the maximum level for anonymous contributions, Dotcom told local media.
Under New Zealand electoral law it is an offence for a recipient to classify any donation over NZ$1,000 as anonymous if he or she knows the donor's identity.
Dotcom remains under house arrest in his NZ$30m mansion awaiting extradition hearings over US charges of copyright and racketeering related to his Megaupload website. The US justice department accuses Dotcom and others of complicity in widespread online piracy of films, music and other copyright material.
Megaupload was the world's biggest file-sharing site, accounting for an estimated 4 per cent of internet traffic, before US authorities ordered its closure.
Dotcom told TV3's Campbell Live programme that he had flown Banks to his mansion in one of his helicopters.
Banks did accept he had met Dotcom, but had no memory of the visit, and ''can't recall discussing money'', he said. Banks is the sole MP for the ACT party, but is likely to have to resign his seat if Dotcom's claims are vindicated.
Today, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was standing by Banks amidst calls for him to be stripped of his ministerial warrants over the allegations.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard said he was putting a complaint to police and the Auckland electoral officer over the donations.
Guardian News & Media and Stuff.co.nz