$3m fraudster Loizos Michaels guilty
Accused conman Loizos Michaels has been found guilty of 31 counts of deceiving complainants out of more than $3.3 million.
Dozens of witnesses shed light on Michaels' scheme during the eight week trial in the Auckland District Court, including principal Crown witness Christchurch Casino's former chief executive Stephen Lyttelton, National Party president Peter Goodfellow and former All Black Jonah Lomu. The charges were laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Judge Chris Field found that Michaels had lied to his victims about his wealth and overseas business networks, including a connection with Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines, the Hong Kong and Macau based casino business Melco and the Japanese Yakuza gang.
"After considering Mr Michaels' evidence in some detail I am not able to accept his evidence on any matter of importance and I reject it," said Judge Field.
"My view is that the person who's been telling lies is Mr Michaels."
Among other deceptions Michaels convinced Lyttelton to give him $135,000 based on a lie that he was leading an international consortium's bid for Sky City's casino business and developing an online casino operation called Aphrodite.
Earlier this week Crown prosecutor Christine Gordon said Michaels' explanations for the evidence before the court lacked credibility and "some bordered on the absurd", such as implicating a bank in money laundering and accusing the SFO of "contaminating" evidence.
Michaels' defence amounted to a denial that he had ever made false representations to the victims, and that he was actually the victim of a fraudulent scheme devised by Lyttelton.
Acting SFO chief executive Simon McArley said: "Mr Michaels represents a hazard to the community and we are pleased that we have been able to address this."
However he warned Michaels' case was not typical of financial crime in New Zealand.
"While Mr Michaels' case is highly colourful, it would be a mistake to assume that it is representative of the majority of financial crime. Those that commit financial crime come in all varieties, but experience has shown that some of the most impactful financial crime arises from activities of highly credible and everyday individuals. The SFO will remain focused on prevention and early intervention across the broad spectrum of financial crime in New Zealand," he said.
The SFO acknowledged the co-operation and assistance of the Queensland State Police who provided evidence of similar conduct by Michaels while in Australia for use in the New Zealand trial, and both the Victorian and Queensland State Police who assisted in the apprehension and subsequent extradition of Michaels after he failed to turn up to a court hearing in New Zealand.
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