Police have applied to stop the sale of a Northland backpackers lodge until after its owner is tried on indecency charges involving male guests.
Michael Harris, the owner of Kaitaia's Mainstreet Lodge, was arrested last year after police alleged he drugged backpackers with prescription medicine, indecently assaulted them and took intimate photos.
Harris has denied all charges and is due to go on trial later this year. The British-born 56-year-old still owns the lodge but has been bailed to Auckland. He is no longer involved in day-to-day management of the business.
The lodge - effectively the only option for backpackers wishing to stay in the Far North town - was put on the market earlier this year through Auckland-based Resort Brokers. After tenders closed on May 5 the firm said a number of locals and one out-of-towner had shown interest. However, police have now applied for a restraining order preventing its sale.
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Detective Senior Sergeant Rhys Johnston said the order was a civil court action taken under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The Act aimed to stop people spending money obtained through crime, but also to seize property that had been used to facilitate crime. If Harris was found guilty forfeiture of the property could form part of his sentence. It is understood Harris bought the lodge for about $1.2 million in 2012 and spent a significant sum on renovations.
The property includes a cottage, seven offices, eight dormitories, eight motel-style units, a kitchen, dining area, TV room and a whare. It was previously owned by Peter Kitchen, who bought it with the proceeds of a Lotto win. Harris' trial has been delayed due to his lawyer, Doug Blaikie, suffering a stroke earlier this month. A new date is to be confirmed.