The vintage plane company of movie moguls Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh is still trying to recover nearly $1 million from a former senior employee jailed for fraud.
But former production manager for the Vintage Aviator Ltd, Eugene DeMarco, has made his own multi-million dollar counter-claim against the company, and other parties.
In preparation for a hearing at the High Court in Wellington in July the company and other parties including Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh as trustees of the Film Property Trust, asked for DeMarcos counterclaim to be struck out, and a court ruling that DeMarco has no defence to parts of their claim.
The lawyer for the Jackson and Walsh parties, Bruce Scott, argued in court on Thursday that DeMarco was trying to reopen issues already decided at his criminal trial in 2019.
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DeMarco, who had rare skills working with and flying vintage planes, has now been paroled from the two years and five months jail term he received.
At his trial he was found to have pumped up the price of three Vintage Aviator-made planes, inserting his own company in a sale so that his company pocketed the difference between the Vintage Aviators 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.
Eugene DeMarco says his counterclaims against Sir Peter Jackson and others, are bigger than the ones against him. (File photo)
But Vintage Aviator says DeMarco has not given it $937,250 for the plane that went to Warbirds.
It is suing DeMarco and his company for the money, and for having the benefit and use of the full $2.1m, at least until some more than $1m went back to the buyers of the other planes.
The complex background has drawn in a former friend of DeMarcos who says DeMarco broke a $500,000 agreement over a valuable old plane, and the Civil Aviation Authority that accepted an application to register the plane in the friends name.
Associate Judge Kenneth Johnston pointed out difficulties with DeMarcos defence and counterclaims, at one point describing them as a shambles, and said they had obvious holes.
But recently appointed legal-aid lawyer Seth Fraser said technicalities could be fixed. He had yet to examine the counterclaims, but if any were hopeless they would not proceed.
Scott said DeMarcos attempts to defend the claims amounted to attacks on the jurys verdicts in the criminal trial, which was only allowed in exceptional circumstances.
Money that should have gone to the Vintage Aviator for the plane, had been used to repay a loan DeMarco had from the Film Property Trust.
Apparently knowing the source of the repayment, the security for the loan was discharged. One of the claims was to reset the loan position so the security over an aircraft, could be used to recoup the loss.
The Vintage Aviator says it has now identified other property that has not been accounted for, and has included a claim for that.
Scott said DeMarcos counterclaims were entirely speculative and should be struck out.
They ncluded allegations that Jackson scuppered deals DeMarco was negotiating with the King of Jordan and others, by telling the other parties that they should not negotiate with DeMarco or pay him money.
It was alleged that Jacksons actions ended a flowering set of business relationships that could have been worth millions of dollars, Fraser said.
DeMarco also said he had a contract for extra payments for test flights he said were dangerous, but Scott said the agreement was always subject to Jackson’s approval, which he did not give.
Eugene DeMarco was sentenced to jail for fraud including against The Vintage Aviator Ltd.
Part-way through the hearing DeMarcos lawyer confirmed he also had instructions to act for two companies DeMarco held shares in. They could challenge issues from the criminal trial in a way that DeMarco might not be able to, Fraser said.
DeMarco was not saying, Im not guilty, Fraser said.
The civil case raised issues outside the jurys focus, he said.
It was also alleged that two valuable planes DeMarco says are his, are being kept under lock and key at Hood Aerodrome, in Wairarapa.
The judge reserved his decision.