Off to the NSX. Wha?

April 9th, 2010

The Tony Sage-chaired junior explorer International Petroleum has applied to list on the National Stock Exchange (NSX) for small-cap stocks amid its threat to delist from the much bigger Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). The ASX this week blocked International Petroleum’s deal to acquire Eastern Petroleum, which is privately held by colourful, Firepower-linked, businessman Frank Timis, saying the merged entity may not comply with its disclosure obligations. Read more on the unfolding story here and here.

Strike three for Timis

April 8th, 2010

The Australian Securities Exchange’s cold shoulder of the controversial Romanian-born entrepreneur Frank Timis means that he has now been effectively declared persona non grata by three of the world’s leading stock exchanges. Read more from The Australian here (though the article fails to mention his connection to Firepower).

ASX rejects backdoor listings

April 7th, 2010

The Australian securities exchange has blocked an attempt by the businessman Frank Timis to conduct back-door listings worth more than $500 million because of fears over his record of poor disclosure. Followers of Firepower will recognise Timis as the man Tim Johnston chairman hooked up with over in London when they formed Green Power Corporation after Firepower went into liquidation back in Australia. Remember the boasts about how investors would get all their money back when Green Power listed in London?

Timis, a Romanian-born Australian, earned the ire of British investors as chairman of Regal Petroleum, which was recently fined £600,000 by the Alternative Investment Market for misleading investors. He had planned to list on the Australian sharemarket through two reverse takeovers of small-cap explorers Global Iron and International Petroleum, both of which are chaired by his friend, Tony Sage, who also owns the A-League soccer club Perth Glory.

According to a press release issued yesterday by International Petroleum the companies intend to retain the Perth lawyer Martin Bennett to fight the move. Bennett was the lawyer in an unrelated recent court judgement that cleared his client Nigel Mansfield of insider trading charges. By coincidence, Mansfield’s co-accused in that case was the underworld figure John Kizon. Kizon, you will recall, was a major shareholder in both Firepower and Green Power through an obscure entity based in a Malasyian tax haven. The West Australian has more on the case here and here.

Kings up and running again

March 26th, 2010

Good the see the Sydney Kings up and running again. The basketball team destroyed by Firepower has been revived by a new consortium of investors is headed by former Myer chairman and newly appointed Kings chairman Bill Wavish. At this week’s relaunch of the Kings, the new owners insisted the sins of the past by disgraced businessman and former owner Tim Johnston would never be repeated.

By the way, has anyone looked at how the Western Force rugby union team is doing lately? Johnston certainly knew how to inflict long-term damage.

More weird Firepower claims

March 16th, 2010

Interesting story by Sean Cowan in The West Australian last weekend, which I cut and paste in full. It didn’t appear on the Internet and it just shows how fanciful the saga has become:

The never-ending Firepower scandal took its most bizarre twist yesterday when a New York mafia crime family was named as part of an alleged plot to kill one of Australia’s richest men. Two weeks ago, The West Australian revealed that police had made their first Firepower arrest when Gold Coast detectives charged Bindoon real estate agent Maxwell Raymond Healy with attempting to extort money from Firepower chief Tim Johnston. Police will allege Mr Healy was behind letters sent to the sprawling Gold Coast property owned by Mr Johnston’s wife, Sandra. The letters were intended to lead Mr Johnston to believe that property mogul Warren Anderson had put a $500,000 price on his head. Mr Anderson has denied being behind any contract.

Mr Anderson could not remember Mr Healy when first contacted about the extortion allegations two weeks ago but later said he remembered meeting Mr Healy many years ago. He denied putting a price on Mr Johnston’s head and has consistently denied allegations of intimidation levelled at him by Mr Johnston during a Federal Court hearing into the Firepower collapse.

Police allege that using the name Max Raemon, Mr Healy offered to make the contract disappear in exchange for a one-off payment of $200,000. One meeting between Mr Healy and Mr Johnston on the Gold Coast was monitored by police. But Mr Healy told The West Australian yesterday that he had never told Mr Johnston there was a price on his head and that it was Mr Johnston who had initiated contact between the pair because he wanted personal protection.

Mr Healy said Mr Johnston later told him that Mr Anderson had taken out a contract on his life and he had advised Mr Johnston to call police. “Johnston knew that I had a good relationship with Anderson but he thought it was in the last few years,” Mr Healy said. “He wanted to arrange a contract on Anderson. He wanted to get Anderson before Anderson got him — in his delusional state.”

Mr Healy, a pigeon breeder, said Mr Johnston had discovered that he knew members of New York’s Genovese crime family through their shared love of pigeons. Mr Johnston wanted him to use his mafia connections to kill Mr Anderson, Mr Healy said. “Yes, I stay at his (a mobster’s) house and I’m a friend and we always stay at the same hotel in Louisville and we go to shows,” he said. “This guy and me are the same age and we’ve both had pigeons since we were at primary school. But he does rubbish collection and recycling, which is multi-million dollars in New York. So these guys don’t get around like gangsters with guns.”

Mr Healy said he had not seen Mr Anderson in more than a decade but had met him through the bird breeding fraternity and had been involved in real estate transactions with him in the early 1990s.

Mr Anderson and Mr Johnston were one-time friends and were major players in the Firepower group of companies. More than 1300 investors lost up to $100 million in Firepower and Perth-based liquidator Bryan Hughes is trying to claw back some of the missing millions. Mr Healy, 61, was extradited to Queensland from Perth two weeks ago and released only after NSW pigeon fancier John Hanson put up $50,000 for his bail. Mr Johnston could not be contacted for comment yesterday but is expected to give evidence in the case against Mr Healy at a committal hearing in September.

Frank Timis in the news

March 5th, 2010

Interesting article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald about Frank Timis, the man who promised Firepower shareholders in 2008 they would get their money back from the new version of Firepower that was being set up in London. Needless to say, shareholders are still waiting to hear further on Green Power Corporation.

This follows news only this week that one of the victims of a double murder in Perth’s hills, Stefan Viorel Borsa, was a career criminal and the former stepfather of the London-based mining and oil magnate.

Hill goes bankrupt

March 4th, 2010

Gordon Hill, a former  Police minister in the West Australian government has declared himself bankrupt in an apparent attempt to stave off legal action over the Firepower saga. My understanding is that a multimillion dollar lawsuit has been taken out against Mr Hill by unhappy Firepower investors. Mr Hill was one of the early director’s of Tim Johnston’s fraudulent fuel technology company and it is alleged in the lawsuit against him that he made millions from selling shares. His statement of assets in the bankruptcy proceedings includes a claim he has just over $20,000 in cash. Mr Hill is a lawyer and has been a director of a number of publicly listed companies both in Australia and overseas. The good news for Firepower investors is that this will, I am assured, not end the case despite a report to the contrary.

First arrest

February 28th, 2010

Police have finally made their first arrest over the $100 million Firepower scandal but the surprise is it’s not any of the people responsible for diddling mums and dads. Instead, police have charged a Perth real estate agent with attempting to extort money from Firepower chief Tim Johnston.

Gold Coast detectives flew to Perth this week with a warrant for the arrest of Maxwell Raymond Healy over the alleged extortion attempt, which the West Australian reports was made last month.

How brave after the event

February 24th, 2010

Government departments  are amazingly brave all of sudden in cracking down on the miracle claims of new fuel saving products. Independent testing of a New Zealand device touted as fuel saving, has found it is useless, Western Australia’s Department of Consumer Protection says. Consumer Protection said the Fuelstar Combustion Catalyst failed to deliver petrol savings and emissions reductions promised by promoters of the product.

But it is strange to see how history is re-written. This was the same state government department that sat on its hands for more than a year before moving on Firepower. And it is now claiming to have stepped in to stop the Firepower scam – giving the impression it moved quickly. Mind you, I will give it credit for being the only government department to even ask a question.

Russian Olympic boss gets stung

January 30th, 2010

As if there wasn’t enough colour already, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee has emerged as figure in the Firepower saga. Leonid Tyagachev, a close friend and regular ski companion of the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, was part of a failed attempt to raise money for Firepower in London financial circles in 2008. My sources tell me Mr Tyagachev invested $US1 million ($1.12 million) in Firepower. He declined to comment when pressed by my SMH colleague Jacquelin Magnay.

Jacquelin worked with me on many of the Firepower stories. She is now off to the Daily Telegraph in London to work as their olympics reporter.

I also decided to update readers of the Sydney Morning Herald on the story so far.