Disgraced horse trainer gambled $2m before bankruptcy

Mitchell Kerr is back on home detention after his latest bout of offending.
Mitchell Kerr is back on home detention after his latest bout of offending.
A disgraced former horse trainer gambled more than $2 million before filing for bankruptcy and collecting almost $10,000 in Government-backed wage subsidies.

Today, former harness trainer Mitchell Paul Kerr was sentenced in Christchurch District Court after his conviction for providing misleading statements and hiding crucial information from the Official Assignee of New Zealand when he applied for self-adjudicated bankruptcy.

He was sentenced to five months of home detention.

The Official Assignee, also known as the Insolvency and Trustee Service, is a business unit of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). It administers bankruptcies and liquidations by collecting and selling assets to repay creditors.

Kerr had concealed crucial details such as his bank accounts for gambling when he filed for bankruptcy.

After investigations by MBIE’s integrity and enforcement team, Kerr was found to have breached the Insolvency Act in several ways.

MBIE said in a statement that between April 2018 and November 2020 Kerr gambled $2.055m via online gambling website Ladbrokes using six banks that he did not disclose.

In March 2021, Kerr applied to MBIE’s Insolvency and Trustee Service for self-imposed bankruptcy, and on March 30 he was declared bankrupt.

He was sent a letter outlining what he could and couldn’t do, such as taking part in managing or controlling any business unless permission was sought from the Official Assignee.

It was also an offence for someone to contribute to their bankruptcy by gambling.

MBIE said despite Kerr being “fully aware” of the obligations and responsibilities he had during his bankruptcy, between April 2021 and June 2022 he continued to be involved in the management of his business, Mitch Kerr Racing.

Between August and December 2021, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) introduced the Covid-19 Wage Subsidy to help businesses pay employees and protect jobs affected by Covid alert level changes.

Kerr made eight applications during this period, declaring himself a self-employed/contractor (sole trader), and received $9600 from MSD.

A senior spokesperson for MBIE’s integrity and enforcement team, Vanessa Cook, said the self-initiated bankruptcy process helped individuals honestly resolve their financial situations and resume their normal economic lives.

She said it was a fair and effective process that helped to protect the public from financial risk, but Kerr “wilfully chose to mislead and withhold critical information” when he entered bankruptcy.

Cook said MBIE’s integrity and enforcement team would not hesitate to investigate and prosecute individuals who took advantage of the system by misleading and suppressing facts.

Kerr has made headlines several times in recent years, most recently in June 2022 when a year after being banned for life from harness racing for duping owners, he was put on home detention for fraud and forgery, including selling a fictitious horse for $40,000.

In April 2021, the Judicial Control Authority for Racing cancelled his licence after he was found guilty of four charges at a Judicial Control Authority hearing in Christchurch.

 - Tracy Neal, Open Justice reporter