The Dominion Post
Film-makers take case against fraudster
The tangle of claims and counter claims between film-makers Sir Peter Jackson, Dame Fran Walsh, and their former employee convicted of fraud, have been whittled down ahead of a full hearing of the cases.
When Eugene (Gene) DeMarco, 59, was found guilty in 2019 of fraud against a company of Jackson and Walsh, he said they owed him more than he owed them.
DeMarco, who had rare skills working with and flying vintage planes, has been paroled from the two years and five months’ jail term he received. He now faces a civil case at the High Court in Wellington for about $1 million.
In preparation for the case due to start in July, the film-makers were mostly successful when they asked for DeMarco’s counter claims and some intended defences to be ruled out.
At DeMarco’s criminal trial he was found to have jacked up the prices of three planes made at the film-makers’ Vintage Aviator company, using his own company as a middleman in the sales so that his company pocketed the difference between the Vintage Aviator’s prices and the $2.1m the buyers paid. One of the planes was delivered to an Auckland charity, New Zealand Warbirds Association, and the money paid for the other two planes was eventually returned to the buyers.
But the Vintage Aviator said DeMarco did not give it $937,250 for the plane that went to Warbirds.
It is suing DeMarco and his company for the money, and for having had the benefit and use of the full $2.1m for a period.
A former friend, Oliver Wulff also said DeMarco broke a $500,000 agreement over a valuable old plane and shares in a company, and Wulff’s claim will be heard at the same time as the filmmakers’ case.
In a recent decision some of DeMarco’s defences to the claims withstood an attempt to strike them out, but others were not able to be argued at July’s hearing, a judge ruled.
However, DeMarco’s counterclaims have been struck out, or ruled unarguable, against the Civil Aviation Authority, Wulff, The Vintage Aviator, and Jackson, Walsh and screenwriter Philippa Boyens as trustees of the Film Property Trust.
DeMarco and his company The Old Stick and Rudder, were defendants in the Jackson-Walsh case, and the one Wulff has brought. One of the issues decided recently was whether DeMarco could argue claims that were inconsistent with the jury’s verdicts in the criminal case.
Associate Judge Kenneth Johnston decided that the law prevented DeMarco doing that either in defence of the filmmakers’ claims or in his own counter claims. The court had the jury’s verdicts, and the question trail of issues the jury used to reach them.