31 Jul 2015

Trio plead not guilty to $30m gaming fraud

2:44 pm on 31 July 2015

Harness Racing New Zealand former chair Patrick O'Brien, his son and a bankrupt bar owner have today pleaded not guilty to pokie machine fraud worth $30 million.

A fourth man, a former gaming inspector who cannot be named, had earlier pleaded not guilty to two fraud charges.

Mr O'Brien, who is in his 80s and in poor health, was excused from appearing in court today, as was the former gaming inspector, whose lawyer has filed an application to have the charges against him dismissed.

Mr O'Brien and Nelson hospitality consultant Paul Max appeared and pleaded not guilty to all charges brought after an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, the Department of Internal Affairs and the police, dubbed Operation Chestnut.

The investigation, which began in June 2012, examined grants made by the New Zealand Community Trust, Infinity and Bluegrass Trusts dating back to 2006, and involved 20 venues in Blenheim, Wellington, Hawke's Bay and Masterton.

Mr O'Brien was at one stage a member of the Racing Integrity Unit, which was set up in 2011 to police compliance in the industry.

In total, the four men face 32 charges of obtaining by deception, which is punishable by up to seven years' jail.

They were bailed to appear in the Wellington District Court in October before their trial by jury.

The unnamed former gaming inspector has opted for trial by judge alone if he does not get the charges thrown out first.

  • Court appearance for gaming fraud accused