The big-time harness racing owner linked to this week’s race fixing police raids has been told he will be questioned by police as soon as he lands in Auckland on Saturday.
But Graham Beirne says he welcomes the chance to tell his side of the story and can’t wait for police to examine his computer.
Beirne’s property was one of several in Canterbury raided by police this week under Operation Inca, centered around race fixing allegations in the harness racing sport. Beirne was in Bali but flies back to New Zealand on Saturday.
He is a successful Christchurch car dealer and long-time racehorse owner, including having a share in this year’s New Zealand Pacing Derby winner Sheriff, with his racing interests often listed under Small Car World Ltd.
Beirne also admits to being a prolific punter who often rings trainers and drivers seeking their opinions on races.
But he says he never pays them for information and has never offered a harness horseperson a car, or even a cheaper deal, as reward for what he is told.
“I can swear that has never happened,” said Beirne.
“I can only think of one time recently I have given somebody a sling [financial bonus] and that was one of the staff when a horse I owned won a race, which is no different to tipping a waiter.
“That is just a thank you for your work and has nothing to with the actual race or the outcomes.”
The practice of owners “slinging” winning horsepeople, whether they be drivers, trainers, jockeys or stablehands for a job well done used to be a relatively common practice in horse racing but is increasingly rare these days.
Beirne had intended to fly from Bali to Auckland on Saturdaty and then on to Christchurch but says he has been told by police he will be detained for questioning when he lands in Auckland.
“Initially when I heard about all this I thought it was a joke but now I see a lot of people being charged I am taking it far more seriously.
“But I will defend myself with everything I have as I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Beirne says his relationship with trainers and drivers usually involves him ringing them to seek their opinion on how his or other horses are and sometimes he will bet and sometimes not.
“I had one of my trainers tell me the other day he had a debutant [horse having its first start] who could be a future Derby horse. So I asked the driver what he thought to get a second opinion. I backed it and it got beaten.
“These things often don’t work out the way the drivers think and I stopped ringing one of the main drivers a few years ago because he is wrong so often.
“But I have never spoken to anybody about race fixing. I am just looking for a tip or info, which people do in racing all the time.”
Beirne’s return and subsequent questioning looks to be one of the last missing pieces in the police case, with one more high-profile horseman yet to be spoken to.
Police confirmed no further warrants have been carried out today and at this stage there have been no additional arrests.
“The investigation is ongoing and Police staff are still conducting enquiries,” they stated.
At this stage 10 people have been charged as a result of Operation Inca, six over allegations involving race fixing and the other for charges relating to recreational drugs.
There have been no charges laid or suggestion of performance-enhancing substances being used on horses to effect the result of any races.