Prominent businessman’s trial: Rich-lister claimed he was a victim of a ‘blackmailing circuit’

A Kiwi businessman accused of indecent assault claimed he was the victim of a blackmail conspiracy targeting his wealth, a court has heard.

The rich-lister, who has name suppression, is on trial in the High Court at Auckland, accused of indecently assaulting three men on separate occasions in the early 2000s, 2008 and 2016.

He is also charged with twice attempting to pervert the course of justice by offering a bribe for the 2016 complainant to drop their allegations.

The accused denies the charges.

The complainant accuses the businessman of indecently assaulting him as he was suffering from food poisoning during a night in early October 2016.

He was taken to hospital by another guest and told nurses about it before being interviewed by police.

A couple of weeks later, Detective Sergeant Annaliese Ferguson went to the businessman’s Auckland home to talk about the allegations.

“You don’t need to bother about that, I’ve got nothing to say about it,” the detective recorded the wealthy man saying.

“It was a false accusation with attempted blackmail,” he continued. “There seems to be an amazing blackmailing circuit going on.”

The rich-lister said he was “vulnerable” to extortion because of his wealth.

“If there’s some false allegation made and spread it affects my reputation. I’m involved in some charitable organisations and some things,” he explained.

When confronted with the specific indecent assault allegation he said: “It’s all absolute crap”.

He added on the night of the alleged incident the young man was “on drugs, totally incoherent, out of his mind”.

The complainant has earlier admitted to the court that he smoked cannabis earlier in the evening.

“This is a set up for blackmail, it’s just so upsetting, there’s no other motivation,” the wealthy Kiwi told Ferguson.

The police officer explained to him her questions were part of the investigation process.

“We can’t just ignore an allegation because it has been made against someone of standing in the community,” she told him.

Police charged the businessman in February 2017 with his first indecent assault charge.

The prominent Kiwi’s manager, who has name suppression, is also on trial and jointly faces a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice for attempting to dissuade the 2016 complainant. He denies the charge.

An entertainer has already pleaded guilty to two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice for attempting to have the 2016 complainant withdraw allegations, including during an incident described by the Crown as the Gold Coast plot.

He has name suppression and is due to be sentenced next month.

The trial is expected to last about five weeks.

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