One of three men charged with having deceived gambling authorities about involvement with pokie machine operations has begun giving evidence in his own defence.
The man, a former Department of Internal Affairs employee, did not give an opening statement to the court but elected to give evidence.
It was alleged that racing identity Michael Joseph O’Brien, 57, of Blenheim, was running an “invoices for grants” scheme with racing clubs, from which he got an income and they received grants.
Also on trial is Paul Anthony Max, 60, of Nelson.
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The charges against the three do not specify sums, but the charitable trust in which it was alleged O’Brien was “significantly influential” distributed more than $11.8 million in grants between December 2009 and July 2013, the Serious Fraud Office, which is prosecuting, alleged.
Patrick O’Brien, a former chairman of Harness Racing New Zealand and father of Michael, had been charged with two frauds relating to pokie gambling, but has been taken out of a trial because of his ill health.
At the start of the second day of the trial, Justice Robert Dobson indicated he had seen enough during the first day to tentatively believe the charges against O’Brien should be adjourned, because his current health would prevent him getting a fair trial.
But it was left open for the Crown to ask for O’Brien, a retired accountant with no previous convictions, to stand trial separately later if his health improved.
Mike O’Brien and Max faced 10 charges alleging that, between 2007 and 2010, they obtained 10 venue licences by concealing O’Brien’s significant interest in the ownership, management or operation of the trust that was licensed to run the machines, by transferring his interest to Max.
Mike O’Brien and the man whose name was suppressed faced two charges together, of obtaining an operator’s licence for Bluegrass, and control over the proceeds of gambling, by false representations that Mike O’Brien was not involved.
Mike O’Brien and Max face a group of charges relating to getting venue licences for three businesses in 2009 and 2010 by concealing O’Brien’s involvement.
The trial was expected to take eight weeks.