The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is planning to amend one of the 17 charges laid against former New Zealand Wine Company boss Peter Scutts, who made his first appearance at the Auckland High Court this morning.
Last year Mr Scutts pled not guilty in the Auckland District Court on 16 Crimes Act charges of dishonestly using a document and one Secret Commissions Act charge of receiving a secret reward for procuring contracts.
Last week Justice Geoffrey Venning agreed to transfer the case to the High Court.
The 10-day, judge-alone trial is set for November 3.
Crown lawyer Rachael Reed told Justice Timothy Brewer this morning she plans to amend one of the 17 charges but it will take some time because it requires the consent of the Solicitor-General. She hasn't named the charge in open court.
Mr Scutts is excused from appearing at the next pre-trial hearing on June 11 where the Crown has signalled it could ask for more than two weeks for the trial due to the volume of evidence.
Mr Scutts’ lawyer John Billington, QC, initially made the application to transfer the case to the High Court because of what he has called the “complex factual and legal issues.”
Mr Scutts is well known in the advertising industry for his time managing Young & Rubicam (Y&R), and in the rugby world as former chief executive of the Auckland Blues franchise.
He was the CEO of the New Zealand Wine Company from July 2011, an SFO statement says, until the company merged with Foley Family Wines [NZAX: FFW] in September 2012.
The SFO alleges that while he was chief executive, Mr Scutts received payments from an Australian wholesaler based on the volume of wine sold by New Zealand Wine Company.
The payments invoiced are roughly $64,000. Mr Scutts has denied the allegations.
The SFO alleges the wine company’s board did not know about Mr Scutts’ receipt of these fees.
Before replacing Rob White as chief executive, Mr Scutts was contracted to the New Zealand Wine Company to improve wine sales in Australia.
Mr Scutts previously worked in sales and marketing roles with Montana and as chief executive of The New Zealand Wine Fund.