Lawyer caught in 'wild' Loizos plans

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 14:22 18/10/2012

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A senior lawyer has told the Auckland District Court of his dealings with a man accused of fraud, including being introduced to Jonah Lomu at a Greek Restaurant and "pretty wild" plans to take over SkyCity Entertainment Group.

Buddle Findlay partner Graeme Hall was today giving evidence in the trial of Loizos Michaels, who is charged with 31 counts of fraud involving $3 million. Michaels denies the charges.

Hall said he first met Michaels, who he knew as "Michael Loizou" in early 2007 when assisting his parents-in-law with a financial matter.

Hall told the court his dealings with Michaels soon extended to broader schemes, including a meeting in mid-2007 when a plot to take over SkyCity was broached.

"At this occasion he informed me he had very close connections with a casino operator in Macau," Hall said of Michaels' claims the Macau-based Ho family were planning to take over SkyCity and start new casinos in New Zealand.

Hall said the plans seemed grandiose, but plausible due to Michaels being accompanied by former Christchurch Casino chief executive Stephen Lyttelton.

"The casino, I'd have to say was a pretty wild proposition, but he had Lyttelton in tow which gave it legitimacy," Hall said.

Lyttelton has earlier told the court how he was convinced to quit his job, move to Auckland and hand over all his money to Michaels on the promise of a job with the SkyCity takeover paying an annual salary $12m.

Hall said his firm worked on the proposed takeover, including forming a company New Zealand Casino Services and drafting two employment agreements for company staff.

Hall said his dealings with Michaels were "curious", including being paid in cash for work done for his parents-in-law which he described as a "slightly novel experience for me".

Hall said Michaels would often demand unscheduled meetings where little of import was discussed, including one at the under-construction Platos Greek Restaurant in Ponsonby where Michaels wanted him to meet someone.

"He introduced me to Jonah Lomu," he said.

The former All Black is scheduled to appear as a witness for the Crown.

The trial continues.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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