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Trial begins of Darwin businessman who stole from his own restaurant

A Darwin court has been told that George Manolis, who managed the popular Bar Zushi restaurant at Casuarina Square, allegedly stole $700,000 from his restaurant.

The court heard he allegedly used the money to pay off the debts of a Dymocks franchise he owned with his wife.

In his opening address, prosecutor David Morters told the NT Supreme Court that  Manolis made more than half a million dollars in transactions from the Bar Zushi bank account, and then used the money to pay the debts of another business he owned with his wife.

The court heard the money was paid to a range of big book suppliers and other creditors of Dymocks. The transaction had nothing to do with the sushi bar which he co-owned with a silent partner, Amir Heydarpour.

In addition to those payments, the court was told Mr Manolis overpaid himself and his wife $170,000 in wages while managing the store.

The jury also heard Mr Manolis inexplicably paid $20,000 in rent for an inner-city Darwin apartment where an ex-employee, a waitress who had been fired from the sushi bar, lived for several months.

Mr Morters told the jury that the woman had since moved to the Philippines. Police had been unable to contact her to explain the nature of the payments.

The fraud squad was notified after the transactions were discovered by Mr Manolis's business partner, Mr Heydarpour, in 2015.

As a result, Mr Manolis has been charged with 20 counts of stealing, relating to 20 of the 137 transactions outlined by the crown.

Each count has a maximum jail term of seven years.

Mr Manolis's defence team told the court there were "two sides to the story".

His lawyers said this would become apparent during the trial.

Counsel for the accused Mark Thomas said the defence would focus on its cross-examination of Mr Heydarpour, He is due to give evidence on Tuesday afternoon.

by Leon Gettler, October 24th 2017