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$30m pokie fraud trial underway

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/02/2017 Cassie Devoy

Four men are standing trial for a multi-million dollar gaming machine fraud case in the Wellington High Court on Monday.

The men, former Harness Racing NZ chairman Patrick O'Brien, his son Michael O'Brien, Paul Max and another whose name is suppressed are facing fraud and deception charges with an estimated total of $30 million.

The case is the biggest criminal one of pokie machine fraud outside a casino.

Each of the men in the group face various charges of deception exceeding $1000 under the Gambling Act 2004, that are interrelated.

Michael O'Brien and Paul Max are on trial for allegedly obtaining a class 4 venue licence by deception.

Both O'Briens and the name suppressed allegedly denied Michael O'Brien as a person with a significant influence in the management of the corporate society.

Class 4 of the act involves the use of a gaming machine may be conducted at a licensed venue operating in connection with a corporate society holding an operator's licence for an authorised purpose.

The group operated under the trust Bluegrass Holdings Limited, which applied for various gaming licences across a number of venues

The prosecution alleges the three concealed Michael O'Brien's involvement in order to obtain licences.

Had his significant involvement been known, the application for a license wouldn't have been issued by the DIA, crown prosecutor, Grant Burston, said.

Various letters, notes, emails and diary entries between O'Brien, his father, Max and the suppressed were presented to the court to say that he in fact did have a significant involvement in the formation and running of the Bluegrass trust.

The act states the crime is false representation with intent to deceive.

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