Defence claims Michaels was a 'victim'

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 05:00 28/11/2012

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Alleged conman Loizos Michaels was himself a victim and scapegoat in a fraudulent scheme planned by a former acting chief executive of the Christchurch Casino, says his lawyer.

Michaels, who is facing 31 charges relating to losses of more than $3 million, is accused of creating a web of deceit that convinced several prominent New Zealanders to invest in outlandish schemes, including a proposed takeover of the SkyCity casino group.

In closing Michaels' defence case in Auckland District Court yesterday, lawyer Peter Kaye proposed that it was actually acting casino boss and chief prosecution witness Stephen Lyttelton who was collecting money by fraud and manipulating Michaels.

"They generated the capital, they got it here into bank accounts . . . they obtained it all, they cashed it, they put it in an envelope or plastic bag - all of that was Messrs Lyttelton and [casino operations manager Peter] Arbuckle," Kaye told Judge Chris Field.

Kaye said Lyttelton and Arbuckle initiated a campaign to discredit SkyCity's Christchurch casino with very little, if any, input from Michaels. "It's far too naive to expect [Lyttelton and Arbuckle] would be effectively duped into some of these schemes they gave evidence about."

Earlier, Crown prosecutor Christine Gordon summed up her case by painting Michaels as the villain who coaxed Lyttelton and Arbuckle into handing over substantial amounts of money by misrepresenting his wealth and overseas business connections.

Taupo property owner Janet Jackson testified that Michaels had given her the same false information about his background.

Michaels had accused the Serious Fraud Office of contaminating evidence by encouraging witnesses to tell similar stories.

However, Kaye backed down from this position yesterday, saying any accused person would tend to think the worst of their prosecuting authority.

Judge Field will deliver his verdict on Friday.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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