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RESEND: SFO charges four men over pokies fraud

The Serious Fraud Office has charged four men, including former Harness Racing New Zealand chairman Pat O'Brien, over an alleged multi-million gaming machine fraud after a multi-agency investigation.

O'Brien, Michael O'Brien, Paul Max and a fourth man with interim name suppression appeared in the Wellington District Court, facing charges of obtaining by deception, the Department of Internal Affairs said in a statement. DIA was one of the organisations involved the investigation dubbed 'Operation Chestnut'.

"While we cannot talk about the detail of the allegations while they are before the court, the charge of obtaining by deception is a serious offence," DIA general manager regulatory services Maarten Quivooy said. "The criminal charges are just one aspect of the operation and we're working hard to use what we've learnt during the investigation to lift compliance in the sector."

The alleged offending was uncovered in a joint investigation made up of the DIA, SFO and Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand, and is the largest criminal case in the class four gambling sector, which covers gaming machines used outside casinos. The SFO is prosecuting the matter.

Proceeds from gaming machines provide more than $250 million a year for community projects.