Race fixing charges denied

Several harness racing industry figures are denying fraud conspiracy charges alleging race fixing and electing trial by jury.

Not guilty pleas were entered before Judge Raoul Neave at a Christchurch District Court session today where 12 defendants arrested in the Operation Inca investigation made appearances.

Bail conditions were relaxed as well, with the consent of the police prosecutor Barnaby Hawes. Passports can be returned to the defendants and they now only have bail conditions requiring them to live at specified addresses. All are on bail.

Those who pleaded not guilty were remanded to a Crown case review hearing on March 25, but the cases will also be reviewed before then, on December 5.

Several of those charged were refused interim suppression at a session before Judge Neave on September 11 but the order has been continued while they file appeal applications in the High Court.

Those appeals are due to be filed on October 9 and the suppressions will continue until the hearings.

A separate court sitting was arranged today to deal with 12 of the Operation Inca defendants. A 13th is appearing in the North Island.

Three men aged 26, 35, and 71 are still to enter pleas on race fixing charges.

Suppression was granted to one additional defendant today, aged 50, who had been refused earlier but was appealing. He faces one race fixing charge. It means suppression will continue to March 25.

Four new charges – three race fixing and one of possessing ecstasy tablets for supply – were laid against a man, aged 29, who already faced two charges of offering to supply the drug.

Another  man, Andrew Douglas Stewart, 41, of Loburn, pleaded not guilty to three race fixing charges and elected trial by jury. He has never had suppression and although the issue was raised today by defence counsel Chris McVeigh QC, Judge Neave declined to grant it. That decision is not being appealed.

Nigel Raymond McGrath, a 44-year-old horse trainer from Rolleston, facing one race fixing charge, has pleaded not guilty and elected trial. He got the same remand and suppression was also refused. He is not appealing.

Some have been remanded without plea to the review on December 5 on charges which cannot be reported in detail. Charges which can be reported include offering or supplying ecstasy. Pleas are expected to be entered on that date.