Inca-accused have first court appearances

NZ HARNESS NEWS

Six of the 13 people charged by Police as a result of Operation Inca were in Christchurch District Court on Tuesday for their first appearances before a judge.

Another man appeared in Palmerston North District earlier in the morning in relation to the same Operation, which is a National Organised Crime Group investigation into alleged corruption in harness racing.

After a special session that took more than six hours, including a two-hour adjournment, Judge Raoul Neave afforded name suppression to one of the seven who appeared, and another person.

One is charged with selling the class C drug n-ethylpentylone, and the other is charged with offering to supply the class B drug ecstasy.

Another to appear today, a 26-year-old from Canterbury, had already appeared last week, charged with obtaining by deception and drugs charges.

He has appealed to the High Court after being denied name suppression at his first hearing last week and interim suppression was today granted until that appeal is heard.

Rangiora trainer Andrew Stuart appeared this morning on three charges related to race-fixing and he did not seek name suppression.

The three charges relate to races held at Palmerston North in May, Addington in July and Rangiora in August.

West Melton trainer Nigel McGrath appeared before a registrar on Monday after being charged with a race-fixing charge, relating to a race at Addington in March, and did not seek name suppression.

Four other Canterbury men, aged 35, 40, 50 and 71 all appeared on race-fixing charges.

The 40-year-old faces three race-fixing charges and two drugs-related charges, while the other three face one ‘fixing’ charge apiece.

All four applied for name suppression but were denied it, though have until October 9 to appeal that ruling.

Earlier this morning, in Palmerston North, thoroughbred industry administrator Brent Wall appeared in the District Court on one charge of deception by match-fixing and pleaded not guilty.

The charge related to a race at his local harness track in May.

Last week, Christchurch hairdresser Elie Sawma appeared in Court on a number of class A and B drug supply and possession charges.

At the same hearing, two Canterbury men with ties to the racing industry also appeared on drugs charges.

One, aged 49, was granted interim name suppression while the other, aged 30, was not but has appealed to the High Court.

Judge Neave took aim at the media and police on a number of occasions during Tuesday’s court session.

He chastised Police for holding a press conference before those charged had appeared in court and took aim at media for naming some of the individuals last week and for ‘live updating’ from the court room.

One Christchurch journalist spoke in self-defense, saying that the people of Christchurch had a right to know what was going on in their city following criticism from the judge that the company he works for was only acting or interested in financial gain.

Most of those who appeared today and last week will appear again in court on various dates next month.

 -NZ Harness News

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