Allegations of fraud levelled against South Australian MP Troy Bell, who is accused of stealing money meant to help vulnerable youths, are “much ado about nothing”, his defence lawyer says. 

The Independent member for Mount Gambier is standing trial in the District Court after pleading not guilty to 20 counts of theft and six counts of dishonest dealing with documents.

Mr Bell, 50, is accused of stealing funds intended to support students who had disengaged from mainstream schools and were instead pursuing further education through the Independent Learning Centre in Mount Gambier — a sub-campus of Millicent High School.

After a prosecution opening address lasting a day and a half — which also revealed an intercepted phone call between former Liberal leader Isobel Redmond and Mr Bell would be played to the jury — Mr Bell’s defence lawyer Nick Healy told the jury his client “denies all of the allegations”.

Defence lawyer Nick Healy told the jury his client “denies all of the allegations”.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

“It is disputed by Mr Bell that he at any time acted dishonestly,” he said.

“Many of the transactions that the prosecution will lead in evidence will also be in dispute and that is to say, that on the defence case, they do not represent what the Crown [prosecutors] say they do in many of the instances.

“You have only heard one side of the story, and as the old saying goes, there’s always two sides.

“So please, ladies and gentlemen, keep an open mind until you’ve heard the entirety of the evidence.”

He said prosecutors would present a “huge volume of evidence” to the jury during the four-month trial that he would ultimately submit “is much ado about nothing”.

Bell’s phone was subject to intercept warrant, court hears

Mr Healy said Mr Bell’s state of mind would be one of the key issues the jury would need to consider when they retire to deliberate their verdicts later in the year.

Earlier on Tuesday, prosecutor Jemma Litster, told the jury that Independent Commission Against Corruption investigators executed multiple warrants linked to the investigation, including a search of Mr Bell’s family home.

She said Mr Bell’s phone was also subject to an intercept warrant, which captured a phone call between him and former Liberal leader Isobel Redmond in May 2016.

She said that call captured Mr Bell commenting on the allegations, including him at one point saying: “I think I have got a way around it”.

The District Court trial, before a jury of 15 people, is continuing.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Ms Litster said a call with his wife, Michaela Bell, was intercepted later on the same day and captured Mr Bell saying he could “100 per cent tell you that there was no money stolen”.

The jury had earlier heard Mr Bell’s alleged offending had gone unnoticed for some years because he was “trusted in his professional and social circle” and because the Independent Learning Centre programs were doing well.

The alleged offending occurred between 2009 and 2013, before Mr Bell quit to a pursue a career in politics.

He went on to win the 2014 election which he contested as a Liberal candidate before later quitting the party in August 2017.

The trial, before a jury of 15 people, is continuing.