Bublitz seeks to delay trial for Queenstown property development funding
A defendant in proceedings against two failed finance companies has made an “unpopular” plea to delay a 12-week trial so he can wait for funding from a current property development in Queenstown.
A High Court judge has given former Strategic Finance director Paul Bublitz until next week to provide more detail, with the Crown pointing out it's no sure bet because many developments in Queenstown have failed.
Mr Bublitz made his application for more time before Justice Geoffrey Venning in the High Court at Auckland today.
The FMA has laid various charges over the collapse of Viaduct Capital and Mutual Finance against Mr Bublitz, as well as Bruce McKay and Richard Tim Blackwood, who are linked to both companies.
The charges, which include theft in a special relationship and making false statements in a prospectus, against Lance Morrison and Peter Chevin relate to Mutual only.
Both Viaduct and Mutual held deposits insured by the government’s retail deposit guarantee scheme when they collapsed, owing a total of approximately $17 million.
Mr Bublitz’s lawyer Fletcher Pilditch today sought what he called an “unpopular” delay to the substantive hearing, which is set for 12 weeks in February next year.
He says Mr Bublitz has been unable to privately fund lawyers for his defence since January this year, and in February was declined legal aid.
His former lawyer, Nathan Gedye, QC, then withdrew in April, before another lawyer took on the case, only to withdraw again in September.
Mr Pilditch told Justice Venning Mr Bublitz has approached a number of lawyers but has met difficulties without being able to provide funding.
Mr Piltditch himself had agreed to assist Mr Bublitz on a limited basis, but the case involves 49 charges and five defendants, with Mr Bublitz’s defence effectively not being advanced since the middle of this year.
“He has had a start and then a stop and then a start, with some sort of reinvention of the wheel,” Mr Pilditch says.
Mr Bublitz claims, however, he would be able to pay for legal representation by February next year, when a number of sections in a Queenstown property development are due to be settled.
A delay of about three months was sought.
“He’s not trying to orchestrate difficulties for himself or the court,” Mr Pilditch says.
“There’s no stay being sought here, just more time.”
Justice Venning, however, questioned the scant detail about how exactly the property development might help Mr Bublitz’s position, including the money available and when it might come about.
He was concerned any delay to the hearing might result in Mr Bublitz being in the same position as he is currently in by February next year.
He also suggested there was a hint the Crown may seek to seize any funds from the property development as well.
Mr Pilditch clarified Mr Bublitz will be paid for consulting services to the property development upon settlement, but this would not be enough to cover legal expenses.
Mr Bublitz had, however, organised for a loan from the development as well.
Mr Pilditch says there is a firm preference from all parties for Mr Bublitz to be represented at the trial.
Mr Blackwood’s lawyer, Paul Davison, QC, reiterated this stance, saying Mr Bublitz was at the forefront of the case and central to the allegations and their defence.
Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey agrees Mr Bublitz should be represented but says the Crown’s case has been “fully exposed” since last year, and a discovery issue between the parties will be resolved within three weeks.
He says no certainty has been provided around the future date for any funding, and it would not be the first property development in Queenstown to fail.
Justice Venning, however, gave Mr Bublitz until next Tuesday to provide more detail about the property development, with a view to making a decision by the end of next week.
“A delay of six months would not be, in my view, too much of a problem.
“But I’m not actually convinced that Mr Bublitz would need more time than three months.”
The charges against the defendants carry maximum sentences of seven and 10 years jail respectively.
Charges were withdrawn against a sixth defendent, Nick Wevers, following his sudden death in March last year.
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