Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ASIC gives up on Offset Alpine mystery | The Australian

ASIC gives up on Offset Alpine mystery | The Australian

THE corporate regulator has given up
the fight to uncover the mystery of who owned a secret parcel of Offset
Alpine shares that soared in value after a fire at the company's
printing plant in 1993 - one of the biggest corporate scandals in recent

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission has decided
to end overseas court cases and its wider investigation into deceased
stockbroker Rene Rivkin, businessman Trevor Kennedy and former Labor
politician Graham Richardson.

After the death of Rivkin in 2005,
Mr Kennedy, a former Qantas director, and Mr Richardson, an ALP
powerbroker, became the focus of the legal pursuit.

In recent years, ASIC had tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain documents which may have linked offshore companies to Mr Kennedy.

decision to end its legal actions leaves Mr Richardson and Mr Kennedy
in the clear. Both have always denied ownership of the parcel of shares.

ASIC will not recommend any criminal charges be laid and no fines will be imposed.

The backdown comes after ASIC spent millions of dollars on a global
hunt in countries such as England, Switzerland, the Bahamas and the Isle
of Man in a bid to determine whether it could gather enough evidence to
lay charges of perjury or other civil charges relating to the
shareholding. But in a recent court judgment obtained by The Weekend
Australian, ASIC was criticised in one legal action for changing its
position, which was described as "at best, highly confused, inconsistent
and deeply unsatisfactory on the papers".


The opening scene – be it fact or fiction – is Christmas Eve 1993; an
old printing plant in Silverwater goes up in smoke. It’s one of those
rare nights in the year the presses aren’t running, so there’s no one at
work to put out the fire. The thermal alarm is triggered at 11.04 pm,
and five minutes later, by the time the first engine arrives, the blaze
is so fierce it’s too late to stop it. With wooden pallets, rolls of
paper and gallons of flammable solvents to fuel the conflagration,
orange flames light up the sky for miles around. By daybreak, the roof
has collapsed and $3 million worthf of printing plant has been

In the aftermath, anyone who is lucky enough to hold
Offset Alpine shares gets a lovely Christmas present, because the
antiquated presses are insured for more than ten times their actual
value. Two months before the fire, the company has upgraded its
insurance policy and taken out new-for-old cover that indemnifies it for
loss of profits. The eventual payout from the disaster will come to $53
million, or more than three times what a small company controlled by
Rene Rivkin has just paid Kerry Packer for the whole shebang.

the scene is set for 16 years of action in which police and journalists
in Sydney try to solve two big mysteries. The first: Was the fire
deliberately lit and if so who was responsible? And the second: Who has
made money out of the rocketing share price and, in particular, who owns
a secret parcel of stock worth $26 million that is held by a couple of
Swiss banks.


In the first few days after
the fire it became clear that arson would be impossible to prove,
because the damage was so great that any potential evidence had been
destroyed. The police informed the NSW State Coroner that the factory’s
intruder alarm had not been working, but also reported no sign of forced
entry and no trace of accelerants. As far as could be divined, the fire
had started in a metal bin containing chicken bones and solvent-soaked
rags. In the afternoon before the fire, there had been a barbecue on the
factory floor; it was possible that smouldering ashes had been tipped
into the bin and that these had started the blaze.

the official police report revealed that an anonymous note had been sent
to the insurance company’s fire investigator. Typewritten on one sheet
of paper, it pointed a finger at “the owner’s father” at Offset Alpine
and claimed a similar blaze had destroyed his El Telegraph
Lebanese newspaper in Marrickville a decade earlier. This person was
identified as the ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid, who had been offered the
company by Packer before the sale to Rivkin and whose son Paul was a
director, but who did not in fact own any shares.



Graham "Operation Wallah" Richardson has form. And so it is little surprise that he is still gilding the lily for Thomson and the rest of the ALP / unionist scum.

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