Alleged conman claimed Packer family connection

By Kieran Campbell

Loizos Michaels in 2010. File photo / Brett Phibbs
Loizos Michaels in 2010. File photo / Brett Phibbs

An alleged conman claimed the super-rich Australian Packer family was helping fund a major casino development in Wellington's railway station worth "tens of millions of dollars'', a court has been told.

Loizos Michaels allegedly talked up the development to mortgage broker Steven Posa to get him on board in July 2009.

Michaels claimed the Packers and the Macau-based Ho family were helping fund a multimillion-dollar casino, which he provided documents and concept drawings for, Auckland District Court was told today.

Michaels has denied 31 deception charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office in connection to an alleged $3 million fraud.

Mr Posa, testifying at Michaels' trial today, said that he believed the casino development was legitimate.

"He seemed to be with a group of people that had a lot of business connections,'' Mr Posa said.

"He talked of a group of people involved in the development, including the Packer family from Australia and also members of the Hoe family.

"I had no reason to doubt that it was real, that the whole thing was real. And it was an opportunity for me to get myself up and running.''

Mr Posa said Michaels offered him a role in the development group where he would be responsible for managing the funds.

Mr Posa claimed the deal was that he would earn a salary of $5 million over five years and receive a loan of $850,000, which he said was "going to enable me to tidy up my personal financial situation''.

"It seemed like an opportunity to put myself in a situation where I was going to be comfortable going forward, with a good level of income,'' Mr Posa said.

Mr Posa said he was told by Michaels that to release the $850,000 loan from an Australian solicitor Mr Posa needed to pay fees of $71,000, which he was encouraged to borrow from his brother in Christchurch.

Mr Posa received the money from his brother and gave it to Michaels in the form of two bank cheques and cash payments, but never received his loan.

In July 2010 Mr Posa said he was asked by Michaels to follow him to Australia where the intention was to "push the buttons on releasing'' tens of millions of dollars in funding for the alleged Wellington casino development.

Under cross examination, Mr Posa was accused of travelling to Australia to look for work and gamble, both of which he denied.

Defence lawyer Peter Kaye said Mr Posa had befriended Michaels and followed him to Australia.

"You'd gone out socially and gambled with him in both Melbourne and Sydney.

"You'd stayed with his family and they looked after you.

"You had lots of money, which came to you by Western Union transfers, and you kept it.

"And having befriended [Michaels] you came back here and befriended his wife, Caroline Wood, didn't you?''

Mr Kaye alleged that $50,000 Mr Posa claimed to have collected from Western Union transfers for Michaels was instead blown on gambling.

Mr Posa denied the allegations.

The trial continues.

- APNZ

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