Foote vows to fight pokie fraud charges

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

A former South Waikato deputy mayor and Toko­roa rugby stal­wart is claim­ing black­mail is be­hind a raft of fraud charges against him.

David Foote, 78, is the Toko­roa busi­ness­man fac­ing 17 fraud-re­lated charges.

The charges are un­der­stood to re­late to the move­ment of pokie money from his former bar – Footies Sports Bar – to South­ern United Rugby Foot­ball Club, where he was on the com­mit­tee.

But Foote, who has owned busi­nesses in the town for more than 50 years, has vowed to fight the charges.

He was not a coun­cil­lor when the al­leged of­fend­ing oc­curred.

His lawyer, Fraser Wood, said he un­der­stood the In­ter­nal Af­fairs Depart­ment in­quiry be­gan af­ter a third party made good on a threat to pass on al­le­ga­tions re­lated to his busi­ness and the club. The ac­cuser is likely to be a wit­ness in the case.

In­ter­nal Af­fairs de­clined to pro­vide fur­ther de­tails be­cause of the early stage of the pros­e­cu­tion.

The charges were a sur­prise to Foote, who said he would stren­u­ously deny them and had noth­ing to hide.

‘‘It wasn’t easy to take when you know there’s no foun­da­tions [to the charges],’’ he said.

‘‘We’ll just have to fight our way through it.’’

There had been some sug­ges­tion that the root of the al­leged fraud was the strug­gling fi­nan­cial state of the rugby club. Foote em­pha­sised his in­no­cence but he ad­mit­ted times were tough.

‘‘The rugby club is like all clubs: spon­sor­ship is hard to come by and it’s al­ways hard to get money.

‘‘But we were try­ing to achieve that through grants and pru­dent use of money.

Af­ter a cou­ple of court ap­pear­ances so far, Foote said he had great sup­port from fam­ily and friends, as well as the back­ing of rugby club com­mit­tee mem­bers.

‘‘A lot of com­mit­tee peo­ple are un­happy about this as well; every­thing we did was al­ways through com­mit­tee ap­proval,’’ he said. ‘‘ At the mo­ment I’m pos­i­tive and I’ve got a good team who’ll sup­port me all the way but it’s go­ing to be an ex­pen­sive busi­ness to prove I’m in­no­cent.’’

Foote will re­turn to court next month.

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