Five Star director seeks plea change

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 14:44 04/02/2013

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The so-called ‘‘mastermind’’ of the failed Five Star group has returned to the courts again in a bid to undo his guilty plea.

Neil Williams initially pleaded guilty along with three Five Star directors, to 40 charges brought by the Financial Markets Authority in October 2010 but later had a change of heart. The charges mainly relate to making untrue statements in prospectuses. The quartet were also charged by the Serious Fraud Office on fraud charges.

While the other three have pleaded guilty to the SFO charges, Williams did not and faces trial by himself in June.

Williams has twice unsuccessfully applied to the Auckland District Court to vacate his guilty plea to the FMA charges, and this morning the High Court in Auckland heard an application for judicial review of these rejections.

Andrew Speed, Williams’ lawyer, said his client was suffering serious ill-health at the time of his guilty plea and allowing it to stand could prejudice his chance of a fair trial when he appears in court on the SFO charges.

A scheduled disputed facts hearing on the FMA case would ‘‘become a training exercise for the Crown,’’ Speed said.

Five Star collapsed in August 2007 owing investors $46 million.

Judge Geoffrey Venning reserved his decision on the judicial review.

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