A prominent and wealthy businessman, described as "a funder" of his industry, used his powerful and influential position in criminal ways, a court has heard.
Today, the businessman's trial began in the High Court at Auckland before a jury of nine women and three men, with Justice Geoffrey Venning presiding.
The man is accused of indecently assaulting young men at his Auckland home and later trying to bribe one in an effort to stop him giving evidence.
The Herald can also report for the first time the businessman is charged with indecently assaulting a third man, along with the allegations he rejects against two other complainants.
The businessman, who continues to enjoy interim name suppression, faces three charges for the sexual allegations from separate occasions in the early 2000s, 2008 and 2016.
He is further accused of twice attempting to pervert the course of justice in 2017 by trying to dissuade the 2016 complainant with payment of $15,000 and the offer of future work opportunities.
The rich-lister's manager, who has name suppression, is also on trial and jointly faces a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice by trying to dissuade the same complainant.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
"This is a case about a wealthy, influential businessman and funder of [his industry] ... Who took advantage of others by using his powerful and influential position in criminal ways," Crown prosecutor Simon Foote QC told the jury.
"The core of the Crown case is simply a wealthy and influential man indecently assaults young men in his house."
Foote said the three complainants do not know each other but "there are noticeable similarities about what each of them have to say".
Justice Venning earlier told the jury a third defendant, a well-known entertainer, has already pleaded guilty to two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The entertainer, who has interim name suppression, is due to be sentenced next month.
Foote said the entertainer was part of the "most elaborate and fortunately unsuccessful" effort to dissuade the 2016 complainant, the first of the three alleged victims to talk to police about the businessman, from giving evidence.
The alleged plot occurred on the Gold Coast in May 2017 and involved the businessman allegedly recruiting two people who work in public relations to aid the attempt.
"Their evidence is incriminating to them," Foote said of the PR experts.
However, the Solicitor-General has granted the duo immunity from prosecution in return for their evidence for the Crown, he explained.
"The Crown considers them guilty," Foote said.
The "instigators of this plot" were the businessman, his manager and the entertainer, he told the court.
Foote told the jury he will present evidence showing the businessman paid a total of $56,000 to the PR duo for their part in the alleged scheme, which involved a meeting at the five-star Palazzo Versace hotel and false promises of introductions to New York talent agents.
"The plan was clear to the conspirators, get rid of the complaint against [the businessman] by providing an attractive offer of work."
Within 24 hours of returning to Auckland from the Gold Coast, the two PR workers met with the businessman's manager at a central city bar.
The meeting was secretly recorded by one of the PR workers on their phone.
Foote said between the noise of the music and background noise the jury will hear the group discuss the events of the Gold Coast.
They also discuss what else they can offer the complainant to drop his allegations, the prosecutor added.
Critically for the Crown's case, Foote said, the group acknowledged what they are doing was a criminal offence and in fact named the offence as an obstruction of justice.
During an earlier "straightforward attempt to buy off" the same complainant in April 2017, Foote said the entertainer explained he could "fix the situation" with the businessman.
"He has enough money to buy people to survive," the entertainer told the complainant.
The businessman vehemently denies the allegations of corruption and claims the entertainer was offering the bribes on his own initiative.
The jury will be shown evidence of bank transfers, receipts and listen to secret recordings of conversations.
Justice Venning also told the jury they were sitting on a retrial after an earlier trial in the district court in March 2019 for the three defendants was aborted.
"For reasons it is unnecessary to go into, this trial was unable to be completed," he said.
The court heard the complainant who accuses the businessman of indecently assaulting him during the early 2000s came forward to police after reading media reports about the March 2019 trial.
The businessman was first charged with the alleged 2016 indecent assault in February 2017 and has been on bail for some three years.
He is represented by top Auckland defence lawyer David Jones QC, who told the jury reliability and credibility "is a big issue in this trial for many of the Crown witnesses".
"The thing about being a wealthy [man] is a lot of people are coming to you asking for money and a lot of people are going to be going away disappointed," Jones said in an opening statement.
He added "knowledge is critical in this case" and said his client had no clue about the attempts to dissuade the complainant.
"They are trying to paint him in a bad light so you will cut across the huge gaps in their evidence," Jones said of the Crown's case.
The businessman's manager is represented by Rachael Reed QC, who is expected to make an opening statement tomorrow.
The trial is expected to last about a month.