Saturday, November 10, 2012

Charity accused of multimillion rip-off

Charity accused of multimillion rip-off | Nov 4th 2012

A two-time former bankrupt, who was sued over a failed Sydney weight-loss franchise, has set up a ''spurious'' aid organisation through which he is accused of defrauding millions of dollars from investors.

Andrew Robert Mansell had been promising investors that the World Humanitarian Aid Foundation, which he was supposed to be operating in Thailand and Mongolia, was providing exceptional returns on investors' funds.

His pitch to would-be investors was that private, short-term loans, sourced by his foundation to cover for delays in government foreign-aid grants, would be repaid with a high interest rate.

Mr Mansell, 52, from the Victorian country town of Bairnsdale, used Australian-based brokers to gain introductions to investors from NSW, Queensland and Western Australia. He convinced them to fly to Hong Kong and invest in his foundation. Some invested up to $1 million in the scheme.

But, once they transferred the money to Mr Mansell and his South East Hong Kong Investment Ltd company, he disappeared and the victims claimed they could no longer contact him. It is believed he is living in the south of Thailand.

Fairfax tried to contact Mr Mansell through his parents in Bairnsdale and on the phone numbers supplied on the investment loan agreement. His mother said the allegations were untrue.

Two of the NSW victims have filed complaints with Sutherland police. Another has taken legal action against one of the brokers who introduced the scheme. They believe there may be many more victims.

Porn king and rugby league supporter Con Ange told Fairfax he had lost more than $1 million in the sting and was encouraging others to come forward and stop any more investors from becoming victims.

Mr Ange is suing project development company Coffey Projects Australia because he says he and his investment partner, Joe Leto, were recommended Mr Mansell's foundation as an investment by one of its then senior employees, Kevin Bevitt.

Mr Ange has issued a writ against Coffey in the NSW Supreme Court, arguing it was involved in misleading and deceptive conduct.

Coffey has denied the allegations and is fighting the action.

A spokeswoman said: "Coffey has been incorrectly drawn into the case because of the unauthorised use of its name by an employee for unauthorised activities. The employee was dismissed by Coffey in February 2009 as soon as the firm became aware of his actions. A thorough investigation was carried out by an external accounting firm, and Coffey did not receive the monies that are the subject of the proceedings, or receive any fees as a result of the employee's unauthorised activities which appear to have involved the provision of private investment advice - a service that has never been provided by Coffey."

Mr Mansell was made bankrupt in 1997 and again in 2005. He was sued in 2002 and ordered to pay $50,000 for breaching his contract after buying a weight-loss franchise.

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