Silence on racing inquiry links

Internal Affairs is refusing to comment about whether a previous investigation involving southern racing clubs is linked to a joint agency investigation involving the Serious Fraud Office.

In 2010, the Otago Daily Times reported Internal Affairs was investigating the involvement of southern racing clubs in an alleged ''money-go-round'' involving pokie grants.

That investigation related to the ownership of several South Auckland pokie venues, which were, in turn, allegedly aligned with racing-friendly pokie trusts.

Late last month, Internal Affairs and the Serious Fraud Office staff executed search warrants and seized computers as part of an investigation into the alleged manipulation of pokie grants. At least three trusts - the New Zealand Community Trust (NZCT), Infinity Foundation and the Bluegrass Trust - are being looked at as part of that joint agency investigation.

About 75 people are believed to have been interviewed nationwide as part of the probe. Investigators are still in the South talking to racing club representatives.

Racing Minister Nathan Guy has also been informed the investigation is under way.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) chief executive Greg Purcell said the organisation had not been contacted by investigators.

''If NZTR was contacted by either organisation it would fully co-operate with any requests from either organisation,'' he said.

Internal Affairs has declined to comment on whether the latest investigation was linked to the 2010 southern racing clubs' investigation, or provide a current status of that investigation.

Since 2006, several southern racing clubs have recorded on their annual reports an investment with ''Hagley Trustees No 10'', a trust account linked with a Christchurch-based lawyer.

Annual reports for the Central Otago Racing Club, Beaumont Racing Club, Tapanui Racing Club, Gore Racing Club, Southland Racing Club and Riverton Racing Club show investments into this trust account.

These ranged from a $5000 investment from the Beaumont Club, in 2007, to an $85,664 investment from the Riverton Racing Club in 2008. A source has told the ODT the funds were used to finance two South Auckland bars aligned with racing friendly pokie trusts and that grants then flowed back.

Former Internal Affairs gambling compliance director Mike Hill told the ODT in August 2010 the department was investigating southern clubs for alleged possible breaches of the 2003 Gambling Act.

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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