Businessman did not act illegally, says judge

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012

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A prominent Hawke's Bay businessman may have operated in an "unorthodox" manner in relation to a $10,000 pokie grant, but he did not act illegally, a judge has found.

In the High Court at Napier yesterday, Judge Brooke Gibson dismissed charges against Rodney Green, who was accused of deceiving a sports club into securing a pokie grant to pay for new chairs for his restaurant at the Bluewater Hotel in Napier.

Mr Green, 64, offered to sell 130 used chairs from his hotel restaurant to the sports club for $94 each in early 2009. The identity of the club is suppressed.

Green found new chairs he wanted at Big Save Furniture. He told Big Save to alter an invoice so it went to the sports club, not him.

The Internal Affairs Department said he did this on April 15, the day before the club made an application to the Infinity Foundation, a pokie organisation, for $10,000.

The sports club manager believed the quote was for the second-hand chairs which he thought he would buy from Big Save under a "trade-in" arrangement.

Crown lawyer Warren Cathcart said there was enough circumstantial evidence for Judge Gibson to infer that Mr Green had known the club was going to pay for the chairs with a grant from the Infinity Foundation.

This amounted to obtaining by deception and the new chairs would add value to his business, Mr Cathcart said.

But Judge Gibson said there was no evidence that Mr Green knew the club would pay for his chairs with a pokie grant.

There was also no evidence that Mr Green had attempted to deceive Big Save as he did not know the quote would be used to obtain the grant. "It's no more than speculation," the judge said.

Judge Gibson noted that Mr Green did not try to sell his old chairs for more than he had to pay for his new ones and that there was no evidence he had gained any pecuniary advantage.

"This was an unorthodox arrangement and I can understand why the department would be concerned. The fact it was unorthodox does not mean it was necessarily illegal," Judge Gibson said.

"Just because parties are loose in their financial arrangements in a sense as to how they're documented does not necessarily lead to the inference that the arrangements were done with the intention of gaining a pecuniary advantage or the intention to deceive anybody."

Judge Gibson dismissed the charges of obtaining by deception and using a document for pecuniary advantage.

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