Accused the victim: defence

By Edward Gay

Loizos Michaels' lawyer casts him as being on the receiving end of the lies of others rather than a weaver of deceit.

Loizos Michaels was extradited from Australia to face 30 charges of fraud. The judge will give his verdict on Friday. Photo / Greg Bowker
Loizos Michaels was extradited from Australia to face 30 charges of fraud. The judge will give his verdict on Friday. Photo / Greg Bowker

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 relating to $3 million 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 yesterday, 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 had 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 $12 million.

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

"These elaborate 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 that 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 who was 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 the 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 and had never heard of Michaels.

Judge Field is due to deliver his verdict on Friday.

- APNZ

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