THE Crown yesterday applied to have a trial transferred from the High Court to the District Court after the trial judge, Mr Justice Duffy, refused to step down from the case, which he described as a ''piffling'' $5 million fraud. The Crown had taken the unusual step of asking Mr Justice Duffy to stand down in a chambers hearing last week after he said several times he did not think the High Court trial of Robert Flickinger, 49, ex-director of a currency broking firm, should proceed. Granting the transfer yesterday, Mr Justice Duffy said he had earlier made it clear that he felt the case should never have been brought in the High Court although the Attorney-General had insisted for two years that the High Court was the proper jurisdiction. Flickinger's trial, which is expected to last between two and four months, was due to start yesterday. He has spent 26 months in custody. Mr Robert Buchanan, for Flickinger, yesterday asked Mr Justice Duffy to hear an application for a stay on the grounds of delay by the Crown. He said Flickinger had been in custody for two years and two months in Hongkong since his extradition from New Zealand. The judge said Flickinger had a powerful argument for a stay but arguments should be heard by the trial judge in the District Court. The judge said he sympathised with Flickinger, who he was told was penniless and had no friends or family in Hongkong. Mr Justice Duffy, who granted Flickinger unconditional bail last week, said he had been assured an early trial date would be given in the District Court. Flickinger is charged with one count of conspiring between March and August 1987 with David Edwards and Patrick Yip Shing-loong to defraud customers paying money to Currency Brokers (HK) Limited, allegedly to buy currency contracts or precious metals, andfor insurance premiums against loss on the contracts. Mr Buchanan said the Crown accepted the decision that the case should be heard in the High Court had been wrong. He asked for the costs of Flickinger's defence since the decision, including a four-month committal which would not have been necessary for a District Court case. He urged the court to show its disapproval of Flickinger's treatment, saying it was ''outrageous'' that the Crown had delayed for so long and then transferred the case at the 11th hour. Prosecutor Mr Simon Westbrook said a district judge had the power to award costs, if necessary, after the case finished and Mr Justice Duffy agreed the trial judge should make any order on costs. Mr Buchanan then asked if the judge would vary the terms of Flickinger's bail so he could leave Hongkong for America on the undertaking he would return for trial. But the judge said he had transferred the case and it was not proper for him to make any more orders on it. Flickinger will appear in the District Court on February 26 for pleas, and a trial date will be fixed.