Two champion harness racing drivers are among those involved in a wide-ranging police investigation into alleged race-fixing.

Blair Orange is one of several people being interviewed by police after raids around New Zealand yesterday, and a search warrant was executed on the home of Dexter Dunn.

Orange broke the New Zealand record for wins by a reinsman in a season when he won the national premiership with 232 winners for the season, breaking his friend Dunn's premiership rein.

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Harness racing race-fixing, corruption probe prompts police raids
Harness racing raids - what we know so far

Dunn is in the United States but the Herald has learned that police yesterday searched Dunn's home and truck and took away a computer.

Eight properties were searched when Operation Inca saw stables raided and trainers and drivers escorted off their properties for questioning.

It is understood police have been monitoring the communications of harness racing identities with phone taps for up to 18 months.

Police executed a search warrant at the home of Dexter Dunn. Photo / File
Police executed a search warrant at the home of Dexter Dunn. Photo / File

Police had expected to begin making arrests and laying charges yesterday afternoon in an on-going investigation that appears to be focused on betting.

Police Detective Superintendent Tim Anderson said search warrants were executed in Christchurch, Manawatu and Invercargill and more would be carried out later this week.

The raids come after police began an inquiry in April last year. This followed an approach by the Racing Integrity Unit, an independent body charged with managing integrity issues in the three racing codes, harness, thoroughbred and greyhounds.

The Invercargill property run by trainers Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis was among those visited.

Blair Orange is one of several people being interviewed by police after raids around New Zealand. Photo / File
Blair Orange is one of several people being interviewed by police after raids around New Zealand. Photo / File

Barclay confirmed she was questioned by police yesterday. The horsewoman believed that was because she regularly used some of the horsemen at the centre of the investigation to drive her horses.

"I have got absolutely nothing to hide," she said. "They were not interested in me."

A number of people would be appearing in court later this week, Anderson said.

Police are believed to have gone to the property of Orange's boss Ken Barron in Canterbury yesterday morning and Orange was believed to be speaking to police.

Several of those questioned have had their phones and computers seized.

Anderson said that the investigation was not just limited to race-fixing and could include cases of horse-doping.

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Police press conference after racing industry raids

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Monday, 3 September 2018

Racing Minister Winston Peters said he was deeply disappointed by news of pending charges but noted that a lot of support was given to the Racing Integrity Unit which alerted police to its concerns in April last year.

"It is clearly working because if anyone thinks in that industry that they are above the law or above the requirements of integrity, they couldn't be further wrong."

Peters said that while few facts had yet emerged the focus was on a small group in an industry that involved many tens of thousands of people.

Meanwhile, trainers whose properties are understood to have been visited by the police include Barron, Nigel McGrath, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, John Dunn and Andrew Stuart.

The luxury property of Christchurch racehorse owner, punter and car sales businessman Graham Beirne is also among those whose properties were raided in the investigation.

Late yesterday Beirne told the Herald by text from Bali, where he is on holiday that he had been "advised against any further discussions with the media".

Christchurch racehorse owner, punter and car sales businessman Graham Beirne told the Herald by text from Bali, where he is on holiday, that he had been
Christchurch racehorse owner, punter and car sales businessman Graham Beirne told the Herald by text from Bali, where he is on holiday, that he had been "advised against any further discussions with the media". Photo / Supplied

He earlier told Stuff that he was a suspect. "All I have to say is one word: nonsense. I don't know where it's coming from. If they are talking race-fixing, it's nonsense".

In 2014 the TAB moved to restrict Beirne's betting because the agency was losing "a significant amount of money" on his fixed-odds betting.

It sought to limit Beirne to maximum wins of $2000.

Beirne told Stuff at the time: "On the one hand they're complaining about leakage - don't bet overseas, they say, but you can only back losers in New Zealand - 'You can play in our sandpit but only if you lose'."

The TAB said it was standard practice around the world for corporate bookmakers to restrict winning punters.

Beirne has been involved in harness racing for more than 50 years and has said he puts $1 million into the industry every year through 25 racehorses, plus broodmares and sponsorship.

Anderson also appealed for anyone with information about race-fixing or match fixing to come forward.

"We treat race-fixing as a very serious offence which is why our police organised crime group has been involved."

He said he couldn't speculate on whether the race-fixing was more widespread. "In this case we had a certain number of individuals."

Purdon told the Herald that he had not been questioned by police and had no issue with them looking over his property.

"As far as race-fixing goes I know there's nothing involved there, but I'm quite comfortable. But as I say, they weren't that interested in me."