Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Legal aid win delays Bridgecorp trial

Robert Roest. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Robert Roest. Photo / Kenny Rodger

The trial of five Bridgecorp directors could be delayed until next month after one of the defendants was granted legal aid.

The Crown case against Rod Petricevic, Robert Roest, Gary Urwin, Peter Steigrad and Bruce Davidson for allegedly misleading investors about Bridgecorp's financial health was due to start in the High Court on Monday.

However, proceedings are now delayed because Roest was granted legal aid late on Thursday and it has not been confirmed who will act in his defence.

The parties involved are due to reappear in front of Justice Geoffrey Venning next Wednesday to discuss this matter.

Despite the delay, the lawyer acting on behalf of the Crown, Brian Dickey, said the trial could still go ahead next week.

"A possibility is that we would proceed without Roest, [who could] be tried separately later," Dickey said.

"We're going to be back in court on Wednesday.

"The trial may then start that week but there is the equal possibility it could start in a period of three or four weeks I think," he said.

Although the trial has been postponed a number of times, Dickey said it was likely to commence this year.

"The judge is saying he's not going to put off the main trial until next year," he said.

Bridgecorp collapsed in July 2007 owing $459 million to 14,500 investors.

The five directors face Securities Commission (now the Financial Markets Authority) allegations that they made untrue statements in the investment statements and registered prospectuses of Bridgecorp and Bridgecorp Investments.

Although Roest's has been granted legal aid, Petricevic's applications for financial assistance to fund his case have been dismissed by the High Court a number of times.

A legal aid review panel declined Petricevic's legal aid application because despite being bankrupt, he is a trustee of the R.M. Petricevic Trust, which has considerable assets, and his wife Mary and adult sons are discretionary beneficiaries.

A financial report for the year ending March 31, 2009, revealed the trust had a total equity of $5.2 million, owning six rental properties in Auckland which were valued at more than $1 million with mortgage liabilities of $535,000.

Petricevic and Roest also face separate criminal charges from the Serious Fraud Office, which are expected to go to trial next year.

In a related case, a former subsidiary of Bridgecorp, Navigator Finance, has taken civil action against the R.M. Petricevic Trust for $2.2 million.

- NZ Herald

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