Harness racing figures have today denied race-fixing allegations and have elected to fight the charges before a jury.
Twelve people appeared at Christchurch District Court this morning after being caught up in the 18-month Operation Inca investigation by the National Organised Crime Group.
The charges came following raids on multiple stables and properties in Canterbury, Invercargill and Manawatu last month.
Ten of the 12 Canterbury people charged have been granted interim name suppression.
Some only face drugs or other allegations and are not part of the main race-fixing focus of Operation Inca.
A 40-year old Canterbury man today denied three race-fixing charges through defence counsel Jonathan Eaton QC. No pleas were entered on two unrelated drugs charges.
A 50-year-old Canterbury man entered a not guilty plea to one race-fixing charge.
Three other men – aged 71, 35 and 26 – are yet to enter pleas to race-fixing allegations.
Three new race-fixing charges were laid at court this morning for a 29-year-old man who also faces an allegation of possession of MDMA tablets for supply by conspiring with another man, a 31-year-old who faces eight drugs charges and one of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon.
North Canterbury trainer Andrew Douglas Stuart, 41, today denied three race-fixing allegations, while Rolleston-based horse trainer Nigel Raymond McGrath, 44, pleaded not guilty to one charge of race-fixing.
A 49-year-old Christchurch man with interim name suppression also faces drugs charges, along with Elie Sawma, a 42-year-old from the Papanui area of Christchurch, 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 also 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 December 5. Several will be expected to enter pleas that day.
Palmerston North man Brent Stephen Wall, 47, also denies a race-fixing charge.