Fraud accused denies Japanese gang links
A man accused of fraud has denied links to the Japanese Yakuza and that he implied the gang had killed a man by lethal injection at his request.
Restaurateur Loizos Michaels, who has pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of fraud involving $3 million, testified in Auckland District Court yesterday.
Speaking softly and rapidly, the charismatic accused conman flatly denied many of the allegations levelled against him by Crown witnesses, including former investor and Gold Coast kung fu teacher Adam Hanson.
Hanson was an investor in a company that Michaels was involved with, and claimed earlier in the trial that Michaels' constant demands for cash had left him impoverished.
Michaels said Hanson had paid some of the company's bills for things like rentals and equipment purchases, but the money had never come to him personally.
Hanson had also alleged that Michaels claimed links to various organised crime groups, including the Japanese Yakuza, and that a man at the centre of a shareholder dispute had died not as a result of a heart attack but by lethal injection.
Michaels denied ever saying anything like that. He also denied telling several different people that his family ran a wealthy shipping line, or that they were going to bring a big boat to Australia to set up a "floating casino" off the coast: "That's impossible."
During questioning from defence counsel Peter Kaye, Michaels described his early life in Cyprus before shifting with his mother to live in Melbourne at the age of 7.
He said he sold newspapers on the street at an early age and quickly became fascinated with the machinations of the stockmarket.
"I would grab company registers and analyse them just for fun."
Michaels eventually returned to Cyprus to reconnect with his father and other family, who gifted him land and shares, including some in the shipping line.
Kaye said the defence's case would essentially boil down to a question of credibility between the Crown's witnesses, and Michaels himself.
Some of the high-profile witnesses who have appeared for the Crown so far include National Party president Peter Goodfellow, rugby star Jonah Lomu and the former chief executive of the Christchurch Casino, Stephen Lyttleton.
All were ensnared in some way by what the prosecution has dubbed a "web of deceit".
The trial continues.