Friday, 28 November 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Ex-ASIC investigator and standover man line up on opposite sides at Lazar hearing

Ian Lazar's current legal team: Jacquie Saldaneri and Niall Coburn
Photo: SiN Images
A former ASIC senior investigator and an alleged standover man are the latest players to enliven the ongoing bail hearing of accused fraudster Ian Lazar.

Niall Coburn, a Queensland-based barrister who was formerly a specialist investigator for the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC), appeared at the Central Local Court in Sydney today on behalf of Lazar, who remains in custody on charges of defrauding an elderly woman out of her home. Coburn is also a former managing director at FTI Consulting, where according to his Linked In profile he led its regulatory and forensic investigation practice.

Coburn told the court that four prosecution statements tended in court today "raise extremely serious allegations" against Lazar and he would have to consult with his client in relation to them.

He said the bail hearing was likely to be lengthy and asked for a date before the end of the year. He also told the court that Lazar, 43, has secured the services of Queens Counsel Peter Bodor, although SiN could not confirm this from Bodor's chambers prior to publication. 

According to his professional profile Bodor's principal areas of practice include criminal law offences relating to, among other things, "homicide .. wounding .. kidnapping".

In an earlier appearance Lazar's previous barrister Rick Mitry told the court that his client would strenuously defend the charges, which he said resulted from a campaign by disgruntled investors in dispute with Lazar.

Mitry told the court his client was prepared to surrender his passport and abide by any bail conditions the court cared to set. SiN understands a supporter of Lazar has offered a $200,000 surety.

Sources told SiN today that fraud squad investigators are strenuously opposing bail. The four statements tended today contain details of alleged death threats the distressed debt trader is alleged to have made against current and former business associates.

SiN understands alleged standover man Helal Safi - who made headlines in 2010 when he was stabbed more than 20 times, allegedly by a jealous husband - has been helping the  prosecution. 

The towering figure of Safi was spotted in earnest conversation with a member from the prosecution team after the hearing today. 

Sources said Safi had supplied significant information, and more would likely be produced when the matter returns to court next week.

Also appearing for Lazar was solicitor Jacquie Saldaneri. Neither she nor Coburn were prepared to make any comment outside the court. 

See also: Big end of town unwittingly endorsed Lazar scheme

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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Ella Rouge Beauty founder pleads guilty to misappropriating $2.6 million

Ella Rouge founder Ali Hammoud
Ali Hammoud, the founder of Ella Rouge Beauty Pty Ltd, which operates the NSW chain of ‘Ella Rouge Beauty’ salons, has pleaded guilty to one count of dishonestly misusing his position as a director of ERB International Pty Ltd (ERB) and one count of making a false statement to obtain a financial advantage.

In a statement issued today, the corporate regulator alleged that between 9 August 2007 and 4 March 2008, Mr Hammoud used his position as a director of ERB dishonestly with the intention of gaining a financial advantage for himself, namely by misappropriating $2,609,831.91 from the company for his own use.

ASIC also alleged that between 8 August 2003 and 26 June 2007, Mr Hammoud, with the intent to gain a financial advantage, recklessly made false statements in workers compensation insurance forms by understating the estimated and actual wages of the company. It is estimated that ERB obtained a financial advantage of approximately $338,709.25 as a result of the false statements.

Mr Hammoud was committed to the Sydney District Court where the matter will be mentioned on 5 December 2014.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Albarran and Pleash repay mystery $16k

ONE consequence of Justice Ashley Black's recent judgement in the matter of Joe & Joe Developments has been the repayment of a curious and unexplained invoice that Joe & Joe's deed administrator Richard Albarran authorised be paid on June 16, 2009.

The invoice came from Shalton Consulting, an entity associated with Dinimus Capital's principal and founder, Oliver Trajcevski. Hall Chadwick partner Blair Pleash told a recent court hearing that his colleague Albarran authorised payment of the invoice in the sum of $16,855.91.

The hearing was a consequence of one of Joe & Joe's shareholders suing Pleash and Albarran for allegedly handling the company's affairs in a manner prejudicial to the interests of its members and shareholders. In Justice Black's judgement, the Shalton payment came in for special attention.

"In my view, a proper basis has been established for an order that Messrs Albarran and Pleash should repay the amount of the payment to Shalton Investments to the Company (Joe & Joe), leaving them to any rights that they may in turn have against Shalton Investments."

What is interesting about the judge's order is the reference to Shalton Investments. According to the deed administrator's cash book, the payment was made to Shalton Consulting.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Big end of town unwittingly endorsed Lazar scheme

John Melluish said Ian Lazar misrepresented
him by using his profile without authorisation.
CONTROVERSIAL mortgage trader Ian Lazar may be in custody over a fraud he allegedly perpetrated in 2003 but documents obtained by Sydney Insolvency News show that a decade ago, the profiles of lawyers, liquidators and property experts from top tier firms were used to endorse Lazar's Business Australia Group (BAG) whilst it was under investigation by ASIC.

A BA Group prospectus published in 2003 advises prospective investors that Lazar and BAG enjoy the support of insolvency, property and legal luminaries who are experts in their respective fields.

Among those listed are Ferrier Hodgson partner John Melluish, former Ernst & Young property chief and now Japara CEO Andrew Sudholz and former Blake Dawson Waldron partner and tax supremo Phillip Wiseman

Of these, two say Lazar used their profiles and their company names without their knowledge or authorisation. It is not known how many investors committed funds to the scheme based on the presence of corporate heavy hitters appearing to endorse the BA Group.  

One version of the document identifies Melluish as "Investigative Forensic Accountant for BACF" (Business Australia Capital Finance). His position as a partner at Ferrier Hodgson is also highlighted, as is his former role as "National Education chairman of the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Australia (IPAA) and co-author of the CPA Insolvency Module".

But when contacted by SiN Melluish distanced himself. 

"The representations made on the website are not correct," Melluish said. "I became aware of those representations at the time and asked Ian to remove them," he said. 

"The only role I had was the provision of a short report as detailed below and another piece of work assisting the Nauru Phosphates Royalty Trust at Ian’s introduction," Melluish said.

"A piece of forensic work was done for either BACF or BACM (Business Australia Capital Mortgage), companies now in liquidation. I believe that the job would have occurred over a period of 2-3 months, maybe 10 or more years ago," Melluish said.

But Lazar's unauthorised use of Melluish's profile and the Ferrier Hodgson brand didn't end the relationship. The registered liquidator still took Lazar's calls.

"For a period of time between 2003 and 2009 he was ringing me every six months and he'd ask me if I had a deal or tell me what was going on and I understood from other insolvency practitioners that he was doing the rounds and having discussions with everyone. He was always promising insolvency work but never really delivering," Melluish said.

Lawyer Phillip Wiseman - who appears in the document under the heading "Blake Dawson Waldron - Corporate Lawyer to BACF" - was less forgiving.