SFO turned family against him, Michaels says

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 12:01 14/11/2012
Loizos Michaels
Sunday Star Times
LOIZOS MICHAELS: On trial for fraud.

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Members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang were frequent patrons of the Auckland-based restaurant run by alleged conman Loizos Michaels, a court has heard.

The Greek-Australian restaurateur is on trial in the Auckland District Court for a raft of Serious Fraud Office charges relating to losses of more than $3 million.

The court heard Michaels had become friendly with some of the gang members at the Tikiboy cafe across the road from his Platos eatery. It was at Tikiboy where he regularly met victims of his alleged scams to plot the takeover of SkyCity casino.

Michaels said he didn't know who the gang members were at first, but they shared things in common "like our children and so forth".

"Everybody was welcome at Platos," he told the court. "I wasn't there to judge them."

Under questioning from defence lawyer Peter Kaye, Michaels has repeatedly denied telling several people he had links to a range of criminal networks, including the Japanese Yakuza and Cypriot mafia.

Today Michaels also spoke of falling behind on lease payments for his struggling Greek restaurant, which were often paid in cash and funded with his own money and his "family" in Melbourne.

"It was a struggle, and all the adverse media didn't make it any better."

He said the Serious Fraud Office had told him not to speak to anyone, and had turned family, friends and suppliers against him.

Relationships began to sour with former friend Eric McCall over unpaid bills for furniture supplied to the restaurant.

McCall earlier told the court he pursued the debt for months with no success, but Michaels said he had paid it off in cash, food and by hosting functions for him at Platos.

He said McCall, formerly a good friend who had keys to the restaurant, became a "stalker", and would sit across the road with a crew of suppliers. "He tried to get them all together to attack Platos."

Michaels claimed it all came to a head when McCall brought a black bag into the restaurant one day and asked him to feel inside. "It was metal pieces. He said to me, that's a gun."

Michaels denied telling McCall he was involved with the Macau-based Ho family, who run the international Melco casino empire, or that he was plotting to take over SkyCity. He has earlier denied telling similar stories to several other Crown witnesses.

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The cross-examination of Michaels will begin this afternoon.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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