The trial for a former Queenstown waiter, accused of stealing more than $17,000 from one of his former workplaces, and more than $10,000 from another, has begun in Invercargill.
Carl Ngawhika, 32, appeared before Judge Mark Callaghan and a jury in the Invercargill District Court on Monday.
He denies eight charges of theft, which relate to money he allegedly stole from restaurants he worked at in Nelson and Queenstown.
Crown prosecutor Riki Donnelly told the jury Ngawhika began working as a waiter at Nelson restaurant The Styx in October 2014, but after he resigned in February 2015, the manager discovered seven deposit bags, containing more than $10,000 in cash, had gone missing.
Seven of the eight charges relate to the money missing from The Styx, and it is alleged Ngawhika took them on various dates between January and February 2015.
On March 16, 2015, Ngawhika was at the Jack’s Point Clubhouse and Restaurant in Queenstown, where he had previously been employed as restaurant manager, Donnelly said.
Ngawhika had known the combination of the safe, which had not changed since he worked there.
Staff members saw Ngawhika near the safe on that day, and it was later discovered 12 deposit bags, containing more than $17,000, were missing from that safe, Donnelly told the court.
He told the jury the Crown’s case was circumstantial, and that they would not hear any witnesses say they had seen Ngawhika take the money.
However, he said the jury would come to the conclusion the Ngawhika took the property.
A police search warrant found two deposit bags in Ngawhika’s vehicle, one which matched the deposit bags used at The Styx, and one which matched the deposit bags used at Jack’s Point Clubhouse and Restaurant, Donnelly said.
Ngawhika’s lawyer, Joseph Mooney, told the jury his client’s defense was simple.
“[He] denies emphatically that he took the money,” Mooney said.
The trial is expected to continue throughout this week.