The brother of Apprentice star and football club owner Terry Serepisos has been convicted for a string of serious drug offences, including supplying methamphetamine.
Lambros Serepisos was sentenced to nine months' home detention when he appeared at the Wellington District Court on March 19. He was convicted of supplying methamphetamine, Ecstasy and Fantasy and for carrying a firearm. He is serving his sentence at a Wellington home owned by his mother, Alliki Serepisos.
Revelations of criminal charges against Lambros Serepisos come as his younger brother Terry, who has achieved national prominence since rescuing the Phoenix Football Club from collapse and now hosts The Apprentice New Zealand, fends off a letter-writing campaign criticising his business practices and lifestyle.
Lambros Serepisos was caught up in Operation Viper, in which more than 70 people from around central Wellington, Porirua, Wairarapa and the Hutt Valley were busted for $500,000 worth of LSD, Ecstasy, methamphetamine and cannabis. Fifteen of those apprehended had gang connections.
Police charged the 52-year-old in September 2008 and it is believed he pleaded guilty to the charges just before a jury trial was scheduled to start.
A number of residential and commercial properties had been used to deal the drugs.
The officer in charge of the operation, Detective Senior Sergeant Darrin Thomson, said what concerned police most about the operation was the number of children involved.
"Kids aged from three to 14 years have been found in environments we believe were detrimental to their well-being," he said.
Lambros is listed as the sole director of Paleros Restaurant Ltd, and his mother and now-deceased father Dimitrious are listed as shareholders. The restaurant is no longer operating.
In recent weeks, since The Apprentice New Zealand began screening on TV2, a series of anonymous letters has arrived at the Sunday Star-Times, containing dozens of allegations about Terry Serepisos, his private life and his business practices.
One letter alleged he owed money to several firms and authorities, including the Wellington City Council in unpaid rates. A city council spokeswoman would not be drawn on the claims. "We won't be commenting on any money Terry Serepisos owes council," the spokeswoman said.
But Star-Times inquiries revealed companies owned by Serepisos – 79 Manners Street Ltd, Century City Developments Ltd, Century City Football Ltd and Century City Ltd – have struggled to manage a number of debts, some of which have been referred to debt collectors and recorded as "payment defaults" with the credit reporting agency Veda. The recorded debts ranged from $158 to $71,000.
Last week it was reported that a group of Canadian tourists had been trapped in the lift of an apartment building owned by Terry Serepisos, and an elevator company involved in a financial dispute refused to attend. The Fire Service later assisted in freeing the tourists. That story emerged after an anonymous email was leaked to media.
Last week, Terry Serepisos told the Star-Times that claims he owed money "all over town" were "just rubbish".
He said he was "disappointed" that people were taking shots at him, and blamed the "tall-poppy syndrome".
While he had enjoyed filming The Apprentice New Zealand, it had raised his profile, and "you get put under attack". He was amazed by some of the comments he had heard.
"Ever since I started doing the show you get all sorts of people coming out saying all sorts of rubbish ... I think anybody with a high profile gets these rumours; it's all part of the territory."
In December the Star-Times revealed that players within the Phoenix, which he has owned since 2007, were upset their wages were arriving late in their bank accounts.
Meanwhile, a TVNZ spokeswoman confirmed the broadcaster had made inquiries with police before signing on Serepisos as the New Zealand equivalent of US mogul Donald Trump.
"TVNZ carries out due diligence with all our hosts on all our shows. The checks on Mr Serepisos were completely standard practice and we were satisfied with the outcome," TVNZ's statement reads.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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