Received from Martin Legge.
Tuesday, 31 December 2013 10:54 p.m.
The relaunch of “Operation Chestnut” is nothing more than an expensive distraction for the masses – making them believe that the DIA and its Minister, Chris Tremain, are doing a great job. No small coincidence the operation was announced (Jan 2013) contemporaneous with the Government announcement that they did not intend changing the current pokie model despite the systemic corruption and the ongoing rorts. If you don’t agree with me then consider this:
1. “Operation Chestnut” was started way back in 2008 and the investigator submitted his report to Senior Management in 2008-09. The same management includes Debbie Despard, who now fronts the relaunch of Operation Chestnut but note she failed to tell media that the operation started in 2008 and she has been sitting on the report for five years watching as tens of millions flowed to people to whom it should not have.
2. DIA’s primary statutory function requires they properly regulate all the entities which they are solely responsible for licencing and that includes the pokie trusts, their managment and also the owners/operators of pokie bars. Current gambling law puts a clear statutory obligation on the DIA that they must be satisfied with these entities before they can lawfully issue a gambling licence. The legal obligation was put in place to ensure they did their job and prevented harm, and ensured the grant distribution process was fair to all grant applicants. That obligation does not require the resources of the Serious Fraud Office or the standard of proof required in a criminal case, just a balance of probabilities. Under these circumstances the public could now rightly demand why all of the issues and recommendations identified in Bermingham’s report of 2009 were not immediately addressed first and foremost with the pokie trusts named and why now after five years the taxpayer is funding a relaunch or rehash of an operation which until now was ignored by DIA.
3. In 2010, during the four to five years of DIA inaction, DIA seek and receive documents and testimony from me and others that not only linked ORFU and Harness Racing (Mike O’Brien) to three South Auckland bars but of far greater significance was the fact that the evidence implicated the involvement of one of NZ’s biggest trusts, TTCF Inc, now TTCF Ltd, and how its trustees were complicit to such arrangements and were knowingly approving millions of dollars of grants to both ORFU and Racing between 2005 and 2011.
The DIA, OAG, and now the SFO have all given me different stories about why TTCF has been excluded from Operation Chestnut but it is blatantly obvious to me and others that to include O’Brien’s relationship with ORFU and those three Jokers bars would mean including TTCF. It would open up a can of worms with the Government because, as we know, TTCF trustees are very very well connected and they have politicians who will pick up the phone.
Quite frankly, as an ex Police Prosecutor and Detective Sergeant, I am appalled at this situation. Operation Chestnut has become nothing more than an exercise in regaining the public confidence in DIA, its Minister and the gambling sector by taking scalps that fall outside their primary responsibility. Evidence implicating the pokie trusts and their trustees is being ignored or suppressed to take the scalp of someone who essentially sits outside the industry. Mike O’Brien would not have been able to get one cent, let alone the $30 million that DIA/SFO allege has been gained, if it weren’t for the primary offenders, the persons with the ultimate public responsibility, that approved that money back to those interests. Their part in the offending is far more serious than anyone outside the industry.
Pokie trust boards are stacked with high profile well connected personalities all of whom receive a payment of around $50-100k per annum for the privilege. The NZCT board includes ex Wellington Mayor, Kerry Prendergast, who is also an advisor to the Auditor General. TTCF’s Chairman is Ross Clow who is now with Auckland City Council, and then there is Warren Flaunty, NZ’s most elected man. They are the ones who approved these grants and yet they are barely mentioned, quoted or identified by media, let alone interviewed by DIA or SFO.
Last but not least, another conscientious DIA investigator recently contacted me to advise that they saw the full NZRU report into the demise of the ORFU that was supplied to the DIA. They have confirmed that it contains considerable detail of ORFU’s ownership of the Jokers bars and their relationship with Mike O’Brien and TTCF. The report was provided to DIA simply because NZRU wanted to judge the risk of DIA legal action before pumping funds into ORFU. Little wonder DIA continue to withhold that report.
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