Betting anomalies have been identified and police say more arrests are possible as the probe into alleged corruption n New Zealand harness racing widens to the Auckland region.
Thirteen harness racing figures have so far appeared in court after being caught up in the 18-month Operation Inca race-fixing investigation by the National Organised Crime Group.
Many of the racing identities cannot be named for legal reasons and have denied match-fixing and other charges. They are awaiting a High Court hearing in February for name suppression to be argued.
The charges came after raids on multiple stables and properties in Canterbury, Invercargill and Manawatu in September.
Today, police revealed investigators from the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) and detectives from the National Organised Crime Group have this week conducted further enquiries in the Auckland region.
"A number of people have been interviewed as part of this week's enquiries, and betting anomalies have been identified in at least one race in May 2018," a police statement said.
"The RIU is considering charges relating to the breach of rules around driver betting in relation to these anomalies.
"Further arrests and charges by police are also possible."
Christchurch District Court heard on Wednesday that a male driver in his 50s has been charged with conspiring with another person to manipulate a race result earlier this year by "administering a substance" to a horse before the race "in order to gain a pecuniary advantage, namely the winning stakes".
Defence lawyer Phil Shamy said the man denied the charge and would elect trial by jury.
Judge Raoul Neave granted him interim name suppression which will be reviewed when he comes back to court – along with others charged over Operation Inca – on March 25 next year.
North Canterbury trainer Andrew Douglas Stuart, 42, who has previously entered not guilty pleas to three race-fixing allegations, faces a fourth fixing charge.
It's alleged that with another man he "manipulated the overall result" of a race earlier this year by deception and without claim of right.
A 40-year-old Canterbury man who denies three race-fixing charges and who is yet to enter pleas on two unrelated drugs charges had another drugs charge laid this week.
Graham Henry Beirne, a 71-year-old Christchurch man, previously denied two race fixing charges, and faces a third charge.
Defence counsel Richard Raymond QC asked for no plea to be entered on the new charge, and Judge Neave remanded him until March 25.
Three other men – aged 50, 35 and 26 – deny race-fixing allegations, as does Palmerston North man Brent Stephen Wall, 47, and 44-year-old Rolleston-based horse trainer Nigel Raymond McGrath.
Others face drugs charges that their lawyers say is unconnected to the horse racing investigation, including Elie Sawma, a 42-year-old Christchurch hairdresser charged with supplying the Class B controlled drug MDMA, possession of MDMA, and offering to supply the Class A drug cocaine.
Another accused, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is yet to enter pleas.
Some of the accused were remanded by Judge Raoul Neave to a Crown case review hearing on March 25 next year, while others will be back in court on January 29.