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Prominent businessman’s trial: Rich-lister says he was ‘convinced’ of winning any court case

A rich-lister has told a jury he was “convinced” he would win any court case after being accused of indecent assault.

Despite the confidence, he claims he also engaged what he thought were the services of a prominent political figure and PR firm to prevent damage to his reputation and media exposure.

The wealthy businessman is on trial accused of indecently assaulting three men in the early 2000s, 2008 and 2016.

He is also charged with twice trying to pervert the course of justice by offering a bribe for the 2016 complainant – the first of the three to go to police – to drop their allegations.

The man, who has interim name suppression, denies ever indecently assaulting any of the men and told police in an interview he is the victim of an “amazing blackmailing circuit”.

However, today he said: “I would not have been concerned about blackmail because it would have been an empty threat.”

The businessman began giving evidence yesterday in the High Court at Auckland and was cross-examined this afternoon by lead prosecutor Simon Foote QC.

He was first charged with indecently assaulting the 2016 complainant in February 2017, but the businessman told the court: “I wasn’t really worried about that anyway.”

“We’d win any case,” he said. “I was convinced that we would win any case.”

The Crown, however, claims the rich-lister later engaged the services of a PR firm – through his manager – to dissuade the alleged victim from giving evidence.

A meeting at the five-star Palazzo Versace hotel on the Gold Coast in May 2017 was organised between two PR consultants and the complainant.

It was secretly recorded and has been played to the court.

The PR duo have also given evidence for the Crown in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

They claim they were hired by the businessman to stop the complainant giving evidence at a trial.

But the businessman said today he had “absolutely no knowledge” of what he described as a “strange amateur attempt” and “stupid expedition”.

“As a businessman, lawyer, [with] some decades of experience, the last thing I would have done is launch that foolish expedition,” he said.

He denied he would ever order such a “batty attempt”, which would have been “certain to fail”.

“I didn’t hear anything about the whole crazy episode,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the rich-lister said he was concerned about his reputation and business interests being damaged.

He said he had heard rumblings the 2016 complainant was threatening to “sell his story” to the press in Australia, where a New Zealand name suppression order might not be adhered to.

The businessman said he sought the services of the PR firm and well-known political figure, who has name suppression, but believed they would act in a legitimate and legal way to stop potential news stories.

“[The political figure] was someone who was very good at solving public relations problems,” he said.

The businessman’s manager is also on trial and denies a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

An entertainer has already pleaded guilty to two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice for trying to have the 2016 complainant drop their allegations, including for the Gold Coast incident and an earlier effort in April 2017.

He has name suppression and is due to be sentenced at the end of this month.

The trial continues on Monday.

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