Legal aid avenue reopens for Petricevic

By Edward Gay

Former Managing Director of Bridgecorp, Rod Petricevic, leaving the High Court in Auckland yesterday. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Former Managing Director of Bridgecorp, Rod Petricevic, leaving the High Court in Auckland yesterday. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Rod Petricevic could make a fresh application for legal aid ahead of his High Court trial, a court has heard.

The former director of failed finance company Bridgecorp left the High Court at Auckland trailed by a circle of media yesterday after failing in his bid to have Serious Fraud Office charges against him thrown out.

Bridgecorp collapsed in 2007 owing $459 million to investors and Petricevic, fellow executive Rob Roest and three other directors face SFO charges for allegedly misleading investors about the company's financial health.

His lawyer Charles Cato told the court that his client had been funding his legal bills under an insurance policy but that was now exhausted.

He said Petricevic could not afford to pay for his own legal representation, could not represent himself and therefore there should be a stay in proceedings. But yesterday Justice Geoffrey Venning declined the application.

However, the High Court judge did adjourn the trial for four weeks to allow Petricevic time to prepare his own defence after allowing Mr Cato leave to withdraw from the case.

He said Petricevic could make a fresh bid for legal aid if the circumstances of his family trust had changed. Failing that, Petricevic could represent himself.

Petricevic has been unable to get legal aid because, despite being bankrupted, the Legal Aid Agency has found that a family trust has assets.

Justice Venning said that the Legal Aid review panel found that although Petricevic was not a beneficiary, his wife is and that Mrs Petricevic's resources also belonged to her husband. The decision was upheld by Justice Edwin Wylie at the High Court.

Justice Venning said it was important to remember that Petricevic was a director of Bridgecorp and would therefore have an understanding of the documents relied on by the Crown.

- NZ Herald

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