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Nikola Corporation founder Trevor Milton is accused of lying about the success of his debut truck and claiming the company had engineered and built an electric-and-hydrogen-powered truck. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Nikola Corporation founder Trevor Milton is accused of lying about the success of his debut truck and claiming the company had engineered and built an electric-and-hydrogen-powered truck. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Nikola founder Trevor Milton claims federal prosecutors refused access to the company’s vehicles and equipment he says are crucial to his defence against fraud charges.

Milton, who is scheduled to go on trial in April, asked a judge on Friday to allow him to inspect and photograph certain prototypes and other Nikola property and places. He said the government and the company have refused his repeated requests. 

Access to the evidence is necessary to refute claims that Milton misled investors, he said. Milton is accused of lying about the success of his debut truck, the Nikola One, and claiming the company had engineered and built an electric-and-hydrogen-powered truck called the Badger. He also allegedly claimed Nikola was producing hydrogen at reduced cost, and that it had developed batteries and other components itself.

“Inspecting these items, and demonstrating the functionality of the technology, go to the crux of his defence,” Milton’s lawyers said in the court filing. 

Milton wants his lawyers and experts to inspect prototypes for the Badger, the Nikola One, and the UTV, as well as a hydrogen demonstration station and a media studio, all of which are located at a company facility in Phoenix. 

Milton, who stepped down from the company in 2020, was charged in July with misleading investors about the electric-vehicle maker’s prospects to boost its stock price. He has pleaded not guilty. 

In December, Milton asked for the case to be thrown out, saying he was not given fair notice that the alleged statements he made could be considered criminal and that prosecutors have not shown how his comments influenced purchases or sales of Nikola stock, among other arguments. 

The following week, the company agreed to pay a $125m civil penalty to the US Securities and Exchange Commission without admitting or denying wrongdoing.

Bloomberg News. For more articles like this please visit bloomberg.com.

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