Michaels conducted 'bold fraud' court told

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 13:27 27/11/2012
Loizos Michaels
Sunday Star Times
LOIZOS MICHAELS: On trial for fraud.

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Accused conman Loizos Michaels conducted ‘‘a series of bold frauds on a grand scale with large rewards", prosecutors have told the Auckland District Court.

Michaels is accused of swindling more than $3 million from several victims including Christchurch Casino’s former chief executive.

The Crown has given its closing arguments in the case this morning. It alleges Michaels made false representations about his wealth and status which were key to inducing his victims to hand over large amounts of cash.

In closing the prosecution case today, lawyer Christine Gordon said Michaels’ explanations for evidence before the court lacked credibility and "some bordered on the absurd", such as implicating a bank in money laundering when he did not agree with official bank statements.

Gordon said Michaels had also made an outrageous claim that the Serious Fraud Office had told witnesses to give evidence that would coincide what other witnesses had said, but SFO witnesses had not been challenged in court.

She also listed the representations allegedly made by Michaels, including his family links to the Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines, a connection with the Ho family and a company called Melco in Hong Kong and Macau, and a connection with the Japanese Yakuza.

The Crown’s case is largely based on the evidence of former Christchurch Casino chief executive Stephen Lyttelton who claimed to have given $135,000 to Michaels based on the alleged lies.

Lyttelton said Michaels convinced him that his international consortium was preparing to buy Auckland’s SkyCity Casino where he would be offered a high-paying management job, and that Lyttelton’s money was needed by Melco to develop an online casino called Aphrodite.

Trial witness Costakis Loizou had earlier told the court Michaels was not related to the owners of the Louis group of companies in Cyprus, while witnesses from Melco and the Ho family testified that he had no connection to their organisations either.

The witnesses also testified that Melco Group never carried out due diligence on or made an offer to buy SkyCity and was not aware of any project called Aphrodite.

After Lyttelton’s money ran dry the Crown alleges Michaels then moved on to Christchurch Casino’s operations manager Peter Arbuckle, as well as Lyttelton’s friend and National party president Peter Goodfellow, another two complainants who cannot be named, and Taupo property owner Janet Jackson who gave $350,000.

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Gordon said it was up to the judge to decide which witnesses were most credible and whether "propensity evidence" from witnesses about Michaels’ prior behaviour was admissible.

The trial continues.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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