A judge has turned down a plea from the former Manawatu Greyhound Racing Club's secretary and treasurer to throw out criminal charges laid against him over alleged misappropriation of government money.
But Judge Les Atkins said in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday he was struggling to understand why other people apart from Ashoka Kant Pandey, 57, were not facing prosecution.
Pandey has been on trial before the judge alone this week facing two charges of theft by a person in a special relationship.
The now-defunct greyhound club received two grants from the Department of Internal Affairs, worth $116,110, in 2009 to build a safety fence around its dog track.
The Crown says the money was not used for that, despite Pandey telling the department the fence had been completed.
After the Crown case finished, defence lawyer Tony Thackery applied for the charges to be withdrawn on the basis there was no case to answer.
However, Judge Atkins disagreed.
Earlier in the day the judge spoke about concerns he had with the decision to charge Pandey, who was a paid employee of the club, and not other people who signed correspondence or had control over money in the club account. "It rather appears that the person who has the least to gain is the person who's charged," Judge Atkins said.
"What I'm concerned about is the apparent imbalance in charging one person without charging the others."
The judge said some witnesses at the trial had made "desperate attempts" to distance themselves from Pandey.
The attempts "didn't cut any ice with me", Judge Atkins said.
Pandey was originally charged with obtaining by deception, before those counts were dropped and replaced with the theft charges.
In May 2011, Pandey spoke to police and a recording of that interview was played to the court.
He said he told Internal Affairs the fence was finished based on advice from other club members.
In fact, only half the length of the fence was erected.
"How the hell would I know if they did 271 or 140 or 800 [metres]? I've got nothing to do with it," Pandey said in the interview.
Pandey was unaware the grant money was "tagged" to anything and said he spent it on trying to keep the struggling club afloat.
"My aim was to keep the club alive," he said.
"At one stage I borrowed $42,000 from my brother-in-law and my friend to keep the club going."
An animated Pandey alleged that "corruption" within the sport's national body was putting the squeeze on the Manawatu club.
"They are just a bunch of absolute rats," Pandey said of those running dog racing in New Zealand.
The Manawatu club was liquidated in 2011 because of an unpaid debt to the national body.
Races in the city continue under the Whanganui club's licence.
The defence did not call any evidence.
Judge Atkins will deliver his verdict next month.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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