Alleged conman denies claiming underworld links

An alleged conman has denied ever telling potential investors that he had links to Japanese gangsters known as the Yakuza or to the Melbourne underworld, a court has heard.

Loizos Michaels took his seat in the witness box at the Auckland District Court today to give evidence in his own defence.

The 45-year-old has denied 31 deception charges, brought by the Serious Fraud Office relating to a $3 million fraud.

Answering questions from his lawyer Peter Kaye, Michaels said he left his native Cyprus with his family at age seven and travelled to Melbourne where he went through primary and secondary school.

While at school he sold newspapers on the streets, and helped with washing dishes at the restaurant where his mother worked.

He also spoke of having a fascination with the stock market, and said he would often read company reports for fun.

Later he moved to the Gold Coast, where he met his second wife and became involved in an Australian film studio in 2004.

The court has previously heard from an executive and investor in the company, who both spoke of Michaels bragging about his connections to the underworld.

Michaels told the court he had never said anything like that.

Investor Adam Hansen said last week that he handed over $170,000 in cash believing that the money would be used to finance a multi-million dollar studio on the Gold Coast.

He said some of the money was stuffed into envelopes and hidden on the floor of the front seat of the luxury Marcos racing car that Michaels was driving at the time.

As well as a healthy return on his investment, Mr Hansen said he was also promised a $300,000 salary to work as security for Michaels.

Michaels told the court today that the meeting in the Marcos never happened and he did not take any cash from Mr Hansen.

"He put money into the business. He didn't give it to me personally. He would put it into the business and I don't know where it came from."

Michaels said he had also put money into the business, and had topped up money for wages.

"I've been working all my life and had some money from my father."

The business was going well, particularly the casting agency which at one point owned hundreds of scripts, had 500 show reels of actors on their books, and was the most viewed agency in the world, Michaels said.

He said most of the money went back into the business so they could buy their own equipment, including cameras.

But Michaels said Mr Hansen was experiencing financial pressure, and a wrangle between other executives meant everyone parted ways.

The trial continues.

 

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