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Blue Chip's Bryers loses bid to dodge hearing in person

Blue Chip's Bryers loses bid for video-link in bankruptcy hearing

By Paul McBeth

Sep. 5 (BusinessDesk) - Former Blue Chip principal Mark Bryers has lost a bid to avoid appearing in person at a High Court hearing to discharge his bankruptcy, with the judge turning down his request to be examined via a video-link from Australia, where he now lives.

Associate Judge Jan-Marie Doogue declined to make an order letting Bryers be examined by video-link at a hearing where the Official Assignee will object to his discharge from bankruptcy, according to a Sept. 4 judgment published today.

Bryers sought to be excused from appearing in person, saying one of the issues of concern was negative publicity that would accompany his return to New Zealand that could "potentially turn the matter into a 'media spectacle and would likely inhibit my ability to property deal with the examination'," the judgment said.

"He says that in the past the past when he has been back in New Zealand he was subjected to unfavourable and defamatory media coverage and that led to him being subjected to 'considerable harassment' by members of the public outside the Auckland courts and physical threats being made against him and his family on the internet," it said.

Bryers contended it would be easier to have a video-link, which the estimated $24,000 cost able to be covered by arrangements with his employer.

The Official Assignee opposed the video-link proposal after receiving information concerning Bryers's alleged conduct while a bankrupt that meant an examination would be more effective in person.

The judge said she was confident the court would be able to ensure an orderly hearing that would be fair for each side, and that it was unlikely Bryers would be unsafe or subject to unacceptable harassment.

The high media interest arose from Bryers's elevated public profile and the extent of Blue Chip's collapse may attract members of the public to the hearing, the judge said.

"While those sorts of factors may make Mr Bryers uncomfortable, in my view, it is the price that has to be paid for the hearing taking place in public under an open system of justice," the judge said. "I do not consider that it can be said that he suffers from a lack of resilience which will enable him to manage himself when he comes to the Court if an order is made to that effect."

The Blue Chip group of companies failed in 2008 owing $84 million to more than 2,000 investors, and its liquidator Meltzer Mason Heath dropped civil proceedings against the firm's former directors and auditors after it was unable to raise enough funds for a legal battle.

The Financial Markets Authority dropped an investigation into the group after Blue Chip-funded developers reached a settlement with investors. The FMA had reviewed a decision by its predecessor, the Securities Commission, after a 2012 Supreme Court judgment agreed with a group of investors that Blue Chip's investment scheme marketing between 2005 and 2007 was an offering of securities to the public in terms of the Securities Act 1978 and required a prospectus.

Separately, Blue Chip was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, which decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution, while saying the firm operated in a "moral vacuum".

Bryers escaped a prison sentence in 2010 when he pleaded guilty to 34 charges relating to the company's mismanagement and improper accounting, and received a $33,750 fine and 75 hours' community work.


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