Conman case: 'Bold frauds on a grand scale'

By Edward Gay

Loizos Michaels. Photo /  Chris Gorman
Loizos Michaels. Photo / Chris Gorman

The alleged conman who carried out "bold frauds on a grand scale" says he is the victim.

Loizos Michaels has denied 30 deception charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) relating to $3 million worth of fraud.

The Crown says Michaels weaved a complex web of lies to induce his victims to invest in schemes that included a takeover of SkyCity, a casino at Gulf Harbour north of Auckland and an online gambling website.

In closing the Crown case at the Auckland District Court today, prosecutor Christine Gordon SC said Michaels met former Christchurch Casino chief executive Stephen Lyttelton and gaming manager Peter Arbuckle and spoke of connections to the high-powered Ho family who own casinos in Macau.

"He played a brazen scam at the highest level manipulating those he came across to either gain more profile or more cash or both."

Michaels said the Ho family were planning a takeover of SkyCity and wanted Mr Lyttelton on board. According to Michaels, the casino giant was willing to pay Mr Lyttelton $12m.

But Mr Lyttelton was told he had to invest in the Ho family businesses and Michaels if he wanted to keep his position.

"These elaborate but yet plausible lies induced each complainant to invest their own money and to obtain further investors in these false schemes," Ms Gordon said.

In reply, Michaels' lawyer Peter Kaye said his client had been used as a scapegoat.

"The defence position is the accused was himself the victim of an elaborate and complex series of fraudulent activity, initiated and perpetrated by Messrs Lyttelton and Arbuckle," Mr Kaye said.

He said Mr Lyttelton and Mr Arbuckle turned against their employer out of spite and orchestrated a media campaign against the casino company, alleging prize fixing and loan sharking.

Mr Kaye said his client had no knowledge about how a casino worked and had no access to funds to pull off a takeover.

In contrast, Mr Lyttelton had headed the Christchurch casino and had access to the funds from his house sale and his superannuation. He could also raise funds from his family and friends, including National Party president Peter Goodfellow.

Mr Kaye said his client denied ever promising jobs to Mr Lyttelton and Mr Arbuckle.

He told Judge Christopher Field the case hinged on the issue of credibility.

Ms Gordon said the Crown witnesses were credible and there was little doubt that Michaels pocketed their money - not the other way around.

"He was the one seen with the cash, he was the one seen flashing it around."

She said Mr Arbuckle had been left "destitute". After handing over all his money to Michaels his home was the subject of a mortgagee sale and he even had his power disconnected because he couldn't pay his bills.

Mr Lyttelton lost all his money from the sale of his house and had nothing to show from his superannuation fund.

"Mr Michaels conducted a series of bold frauds on a grand scale with large rewards."

Ms Gordon said the element of deception had been proven by the Crown. She pointed to evidence from Lawrence Ho who said his company had never carried out due diligence on SkyCity, didn't know Michaels and had never heard of him.

Judge Christopher Field is due to deliver his verdict on Friday.

- APNZ

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