Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Five Star-accused's trial 'simple enough for jury'

De facto director Neill Williams (left). Photo / Steven McNicholl
De facto director Neill Williams (left). Photo / Steven McNicholl

The trial of Five Star Consumer Finance's Neill Williams is straightforward enough to go before a jury, according to his defence team.

Williams, who the Crown alleges is a de facto Five Star director, faces charges from the Serious Fraud Office that include theft by a person in a special relationship.

He has pleaded not guilty.

The defence asserts Williams, a 78-year-old discharged bankrupt, worked at the company but did not hold decision-making powers.

Although Williams' trial was meant to start yesterday, it was delayed after the Crown made a bid for the case to be heard before a judge alone.

Applications for judge-alone proceedings can be made if trials are likely to last longer than 20 days and involve complex evidence.

In the High Court at Auckland yesterday, Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey said the case was "convoluted".

In 2007, Five Star Consumer Finance collapsed with losses of $42 million. Five Star Finance and Five Star Debenture Nominee owe a further $43 million.

Five Star marketed itself as a low or modest-risk finance entity which made small consumer loans for household purchases such as fridges.

Instead, it was allegedly investing large sums in complex commercial and related-party loans totalling more than $50 million.

According to Dickey, Williams "had his hand on" and was the "architect" of some of these transactions. Justice Patrick Keane reserved his decision.

- NZ Herald

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