Tuesday, April 08, 2008

An offer he can't refuse, Mate

The latest in the collapse of Aussie stockbrokerage Opes Prime:
AS former underworld boss Mick Gatto landed in Singapore last night on a mission to uncover $1billion in assets believed to have been funnelled out of Opes Prime accounts, one burnt investor - gun Sydney lawyer Chris Murphy - revealed he received a $250,000 Maserati as a gift from the now failed stockbroker.

Mr Murphy, who lost more than $100 million when Opes Prime collapsed, admitted he still owned the Maserati - albeit garaged, uninsured and unregistered - after angry creditors were told in Melbourne yesterday they might get as little as 30c in the dollar in the wash-up from the disaster.

"When I was a successful trader I picked the shares and Opes financed them. I was given the Maserati," Mr Murphy told The Australian. "The first time I drove it I hit the gutter. I went to Bob Jane T-Mart to get the wheel replaced and they said $6000. So I still drive my Corolla."

The revelation was the latest twist in the Opes scandal, which took a bizarre turn yesterday, with Mr Gatto, a one-time prominent member of Melbourne's criminal underworld who now runs a mediation and arbitration business, promising unnamed investors he would return from his overseas trip with their money.

....It is believed Mr Gatto will meet businessmen related to Opes's operations in Singapore, including two associated companies: an Islamic finance fund called Five Pillars and a Singapore-based hedge fund.

Mr Gatto, who escaped a murder charge at the height of Melbourne's gangland war after claiming self-defence in shooting dead a hitman in an Italian restaurant, is expected to meet Raj Maiden, the chief executive of Five Pillars, along with director Australian-born Gordon Browne, who started his career with stockbroker Potter Warburg (now UBS) in Sydney. Before leaving Australia, Mr Gatto said he would be more successful in retrieving assets than a class action being spearheaded by law firm Slater and Gordon.

"History shows that if you leave it to the lawyers and the receivers, they stretch it out foryears and the investors get nothing," he said.

....It is not known who Mr Gatto is representing, but speculation suggests that it includes Mr Murphy....

"We've got leads that we're following at the moment, but it's all confidential and I can't really say because everyone else will jump on board, but we're one step ahead of the posse," he said.

"We can't divulge our methods, otherwise everyone else will be doing it, but we get the result -- put it that way.

"We never use violence. It's always done amicably. There's no evidence that I've ever used violence ... We fix sticky problems and people come to me with all sorts of problems - they have for many years.

"We've got results for lots of people and people keep coming to me ... I'm quite happy with that."

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