The trial of a group accused of operating a $1.6 million advertising invoice scam will go ahead in the High Court rather than the District Court, a judge has ruled.
Anthony John Hendon, Noelene Kay Banton, James Stephen Burns, and Johannes Hendrik Maria Middledorp face a mix of charges including dishonestly using a document and participation in an organised criminal group.
They were arrested in a joint-operation known as "Operation Edit" involving the Serious Fraud Office, the New Zealand Police, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand, the Commerce Commission, New Zealand Customs, and Inland Revenue.
The group allegedly sold advertising in magazines that were either, never printed, or the number of magazines that were printed and circulated was grossly exaggerated, the SFO said when the originally announced the charges.
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Hendon and Burns' alleged offending involved $1.076 million and 721 victims while Middledorp and Banton's allegedly involved $477,000 and 721 victims, according to court documents.
While the defendants opposed an application by the Crown to bring the trial to the High Court because it wasn't serious enough, Justice Simon France has ruled the case should go to the more senior court. The trial is expected to take six to eight weeks.
"This is an important case focusing on a relatively unexposed type of offending. There are several accused who will appear not only in relation to specific instances, but who are brought together by a criminal organised group charge. The alleged fraud is large both in dollar amounts and the number of victims," Justice France said.
"Considering the nature and scale of the allegations, the subject matter, and the type of trial likely to occur, I conclude the Crown has discharged its onus. It is in the interest of justice that the case be transferred to the High Court and I direct accordingly," the judge said.