'Very expensive' fraud trial collapses
A FRUSTRATED judge called off a "very expensive" trial because a tendered document allegedly shows a man accused of a multimillion dollar fraud owes her brother-in law money.
Judge Julie Dick said on Wednesday the new information meant she would recuse herself from the Yalanga Station sale trial.
The possibility a relative of Judge Dick's might be referred to during the proceedings first arose at a hearing of the matter last year.
Judge Dick raised her concern after a document appeared to name a relative, and asked the parties to investigate.
There is no suggestion she was aware of the debt to her brother-in-law until Wednesday or that Judge Dick acted improperly in any way.
The recusal application from a defence barrister in the trial also claimed Judge Dick "looked at the jury and made some facial expressions".
The barrister also took issue with her "interventions" during cross-examination.
"I reject outright that I have engaged the jury with any facial expressions," Judge Dick said.
Judge Dick said a jury member "perhaps sleeping" was observed on Friday afternoon, so she raised that issue on Monday.
Judges "don't have to sit mute" during trial, Judge Dick added.
Brisbane District Court heard Erwin Walter Filler was "in debt" to the trial judge's brother-in-law over the sale of timber.
Mr Filler, Nexis Holdings chairman, pleaded not guilty to eight fraud charges last week, as did Nexis CEO Rahoul Ray.
Prosecutors had alleged the two men bought Yalanga for "worthless" Nexis Holdings shares and for cash.
"I'm about to tell you something that's going to surprise you," Judge Julie Dick told jurors on Wednesday afternoon.
"A situation has arisen which means that it is impossible for this trial to continue to a verdict or verdicts.
"It's very unfortunate. This trial's been very expensive."
She apologised to jurors for wasted time.
"But there is a responsibility on me to ensure that trials are fair," Judge Dick added.
This is the second time the trial ended without a verdict.
A barrister fell ill at a previous trial last May and it was cancelled.
Judge Dick pointed out she'd raised some related issues herself at the first trial.
So she was "irritated" when a matter linked to share portfolios was raised again, because it seemed no investigations were done about her earlier concerns.
Judge Dick said she previously raised an issue with counsel after recognising a relative's name on a court document.
"It concerned me then."
Judge Dick said yesterday she thought "long and hard about the matter" and the convenience of witnesses before recusing herself.
At the latest trial, the defence tabled a document, where share portfolios were again mentioned and the same name was seen.
"But this time, next to the name was (her brother-in-law's name) and a mobile number," Judge Dick said.
Judge Dick said defence counsel Greg McGuire informed her there was a transaction between Mr Filler and her brother-in-law.
Mr Filler "obtained $75,000 worth of timber from that company and had paid by way of shares."
Judge Dick said Mr McGuire informed her the debt remained unpaid.
"At the very least, Mr Filler remains in debt to him or to his company," Judge Dick added.
The matter was listed for a mention next Friday, February 23. -NewsRegional