Harness racing corruption allegations: Evidence handover decision delayed

The Racing Integrity Board’s bid to access police information with a view to prosecuting harness...
The Racing Integrity Board’s bid to access police information with a view to prosecuting harness racing figures already involved in the Operation Inca investigation is expected to be considered in September. Photo: File image
A legal argument to determine whether the Racing Integrity Board can access evidence produced by a police probe into alleged corruption and drug use in the harness racing industry continues to drag on.

Some Canterbury-based defendants charged during the Operation Inca probe led by the National Organised Crime Group are seeking to prevent the transfer of evidence from investigators to the RIB, the industry watchdog.

It is possible the High Court will eventually rule on the matter, but for now the argument is confined to the district court jurisdiction.

Judge Raoul Neave, who is presiding over charges stemming from Operation Inca, said counsel now had until July 29 to make submissions while the RIB had until August 26 to respond.

Neave is expected to consider the issue again in September.

The RIB want access to the evidence to determine whether it can also lay charges. Harness Racing New Zealand is also seeking to access evidence with a potential view to taking action against industry participants.

Currently all defendants involved in Operation Inca have interim name suppression, which was extended by Judge Neave last Friday.

Operation Inca, a covert surveillance operation, initially charged 13 harness racing figures in 2018 following an 18-month investigation into race-fixing and the supply of recreational drugs.

Some charges were dropped by the Crown in February and five more individuals, including drivers and owners, also had betting-related charges withdrawn on Friday.

Three defendants still face charges, which are also under review.

Meanwhile, disgraced former harness racing trainer Mitchell Kerr, who pleaded guilty to deception and forgery charges, will be sentenced in the district court on Tuesday.

A prolific gambler, Kerr was banned for life in April last year after the then Racing Integrity Unit found him guilty of four charges.

Police then launched an investigation, culminating in Kerr admitting two charges of obtaining by deception and one count of forgery when he appeared in the district court on April 6.

The charges relate to Kerr selling an unraced three-year-old horse for $40,000 that did not exist in September, 2019. He then charged the owner $26,000 over the next nine months for training fees and insurance.

Kerr also charged other owners for fictitious insurance policies.

Woodend-based harness racing trainer Cam Jones faces a RIB penalty hearing on June 21 in relation to the alleged administering of a substance to Johnny Nevits on race day at Addington last December.

Johnny Nevits was one of two horses injected by suspended harness racing trainer Jesse Alford two hours before they were due to race at Addington in February last year.

Alford was subsequently banned for seven years and Johnny Nevits was transferred to Jones’ stable.

Harness racing rules dictate horses are not allowed to be administered any substance on race day.