Fraud accused points to officials

By Edward Gay

Con suspect claims National Party president and a Cabinet minister involved in plan to obtain casino licence.

Mr Lyttelton said Michaels (above) talked of being backed by the high-powered Ho family, of Macau, who were looking to take over SkyCity. Photo / Greg Bowker
Mr Lyttelton said Michaels (above) talked of being backed by the high-powered Ho family, of Macau, who were looking to take over SkyCity. Photo / Greg Bowker

Two senior National Party figures were involved in plans to apply for a casino licence, an alleged conman says.

Loizos Michaels is giving evidence in his own defence at the Auckland District Court where he faces 31 deception charges relating to an alleged $3 million fraud.

Michaels has told the court that the chief executive of Christchurch Casino, Stephen Lyttelton, was disgruntled with his employer and planned to start an online gambling website, Aphrodite, in 2007. Michaels said part of the plan involved getting a casino license, and that is where National Party President Peter Goodfellow and Cabinet minister Gerry Brownlee came in.

"Peter Goodfellow and Gerry Brownlee would add their names to the application."

Michaels told the court the involvement of Mr Brownlee and Mr Goodfellow would allow Mr Lyttelton's company to raise the capital and credibility for the venture.

Michaels' evidence is in direct contrast to that of Mr Lyttelton who appeared at the start of the trial, seven weeks ago.

Mr Lyttelton said Michaels talked of being backed by the high-powered Ho family, of Macau, who were looking to take over SkyCity.

Another project involved building a casino on the edge of a golf course at Gulf Harbour, north of Auckland.

Mr Lyttelton said he was lured away from his role at Christchurch Casino after promises from Michaels of a $1 million salary that quickly turned into $12 million.

He said he was also asked by Michaels to invest in the Ho family business to show his goodwill, and said he handed over hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to Michaels and his associates.

But yesterday in court, Michaels denied ever receiving money from Mr Lyttelton or knowing anyone in the Ho family.

He said he had put money into Mr Lyttelton's online gambling website and described Mr Lyttelton as "the boss".

"I actually believed in Aphrodite a lot ... the concept ... and how it would work, and the way Stephen Lyttelton set it up was brilliant." Michaels said his best friend from primary school, George Plakas, had also arranged for people in Australia to invest in Mr Lyttelton's business.

"That's why George is now in jail."

Michaels' lawyer, Peter Kaye, asked how much money had been invested.

"I can't say for sure, but I would say it is in the millions."

He was also asked about a document designed for potential Aphrodite investors. Michaels said he had no input into it. "It looks like a kindergarten application. It's ridiculous."

Earlier he told the court how he had met Lyttelton while he and Plakas had been gambling at Christchurch casino.

Michaels said he made a complaint about staff not being able to make his favourite espresso macchiato and found the chief executive dealing with it.

He said Mr Lyttelton would frequently come to sit next to him while he played the pokies and it "bothered" him.

Records from the casino show Michaels and Plakas lost $160,000 in the space of two months, but Michaels disputes that.

The trial continues.

- APNZ

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