Troy Bell, the independent member for Mount Gambier, has pleaded not guilty to 20 counts of theft and six counts of aggravated dishonestly dealing with documents.
His case came before the South Australian District Court today, where Judge Peter Brebner said the charges related to Bell’s previous role as an independent provider of special programs for students with special needs.
Prosecutor Mark Norman SC said Bell also stood accused of overcharging, and falsifying invoices, accounts and meeting minutes.
He said more than 4000 exhibits were expected to be presented to the jury at trial and suggested the court at Mount Gambier would not be equipped to deal with such a case.
“Having (a jury and) three spare jurors in Mount Gambier with thousands of pages of exhibits we say is wholly impractical,” Norman said.
He said the gravity and complexity of the case meant it should be moved to Adelaide and heard in the Supreme Court, but Mark Griffin QC, for Bell, opposed both applications.
Judge Brebner adjourned the application until later this month, when he will meet with both lawyers at Mount Gambier to assess the court’s suitability.
Bell’s trial is expected to last three months and he is due to be arraigned in the District Court next week.
The charges, which allege the misappropriation of more than $2 million, follow an investigation by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption and relate to a period before he entered state parliament.
He was first elected as a Liberal in 2014 but quit the party after his arrest in August last year.
Bell was returned to parliament at the March state election after contesting the poll as an independent, securing 60 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.
He has vowed to “vigorously” defend the allegations.
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