October 6, 2022

$10m for equine flu court battle goes missing [involving 2 companies based in Cayman]

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ZAH_bolted_LW-20140408203006132004-620x349By Ben Butler From Sydney Morning Herald

Bolted: Money invested to fight an equine influenza court case is subject to a major probe.

More than $10 million invested in litigation funder Centaur Litigation has gone missing, according to documents seen by Fairfax Media.

Centaur, based in tax haven the Cayman Islands, is the ultimate funder of a Federal Court class action in which horse owners and breeders are suing the Commonwealth over a 2007 outbreak of equine influenza.

It has boasted of raising about £90 million from investors in Australia and overseas who were offered returns of up to 45 per cent a year.

The allegations come amid an investigation by Hong Kong authorities, who last month raided offices associated with Centaur’s adviser, Buttonwood Legal Capital.

Documents seen by Fairfax Media show that in 2012 Centaur agreed to lend £6 million to Argentum Investment Management (AIM), also based in the Cayman Islands, which managed lawsuits ultimately funded by Centaur.

Buttonwood claims Centaur lent the money to AIM in September or November 2012, but AIM disputes the validity of the transaction, saying it did not receive the money.

Buttonwood alleges that at least £5.1 million has apparently disappeared. It also alleges that in July last year, £5 million of investors’ money was transferred to a bank account controlled by a man described as Buttonwood’s ”senior partner”, ”Scott Williams”, whom Fairfax Media has been unable to locate or contact.

Mr Williams’ role in the group is unclear, as his name does not appear on any documents obtained by Fairfax Media that were issued to prospective investors by Centaur or Buttonwood.

He is also not among directors of Buttonwood, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. In an announcement issued early last month, Buttonwood said that Briton Brendan Terrill was the company’s sole director until January 7, when Australians Simon Franklin and Stuart Hackett of Sydney corporate advisory Dequity Partners joined the board.

Under a deal with Buttonwood, AIM managed investments in lawsuits made by Centaur and Jersey-based Argentum Limited, which was initially funded by Centaur but has an independent board.

AIM director Craig Simpson, an Australian lawyer, said he was not a director at the time of the loan but was ”aware of the allegations”.

He said AIM ”denies ever having received the alleged loan money”.

”From our own investigations, we suspect that Centaur investor money has been used on the pretence of it being a loan to AIM, but never provided to us.”

He said AIM previously raised its suspicions with Centaur, Buttonwood and Centaur’s administrator, Hong Kong Trust Company.

”We cannot confirm who controlled the bank account into which the funds were transferred.”

He said the allegation was among several issues that required ”immediate disclosure to Centaur investors and the appointment of an external investigator who is independent of the current Centaur/Buttonwood board and management”.

”We terminated our relationship with Buttonwood Legal Capital in March this year.”

Centaur, Buttonwood and Argentum have been in turmoil since February 18, when specialist financial news website OffshoreAlert published allegations Centaur was a Ponzi scheme.

Last month Buttonwood moved its office from Hong Kong to Sydney, where Dequity is based and launched an internal audit of its financial records. At the time, Buttonwood said it had asked Centaur for written assurances it could meet its current obligations but had not received a formal response.

On Tuesday, Mr Franklin and Mr Hackett had not responded to Fairfax Media’s questions.

For more on this story go to: http://www.smh.com.au/business/10m-for-equine-flu-court-battle-goes-missing-20140408-36b65.html#ixzz2yJ3EiTP8


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  1. Joe Ponzi says

    This is an absolute disgrace. Why are Buttonwood, Argentum, Centaur, AIM, Orion & all the other linked companies not being investigated by the Serious Freud Squad? Brendan Tirrell has NOT stood up publically & refuted any of the so called allegations. All the investors are nervously sitting, waiting for news which has been promised in letters from Buttonwood but fails to materialise in the timeline they’ve given. Why send letters to investors stating you’ll do something & then not do it? It’s like their so called investment!!!!

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