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'Ripoff' trail leads to Canada

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 12:01 31/03/2014

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A self-professed energy entrepreneur who is unable to be found by a liquidator looking into his New Zealand-based company - which pulled in multiple investors from Manawatu and Horowhenua - is hiding out in Canada.

He is going by a different name and making art at a studio for people with mental health issues.

He is also not communicating with a Canadian woman who alleges he owes her $50,000 from a business deal gone sour.

Simon Romana founded Ira NRG in March 2010, before taking his investment plan on a roadshow around New Zealand.

The company claimed to be in possession of gasification technology that would convert waste biomass into energy.

Shareholders signed on by buying share parcels, but the business was banned in December 2010 by the Securities Commission after it was discovered it had asked for investment money without a prospectus. By that stage, the company had 246 shareholdings.

One shareholder, a Shannon man who asked not to be named, previously told Fairfax Media he invested $3000 in Ira NRG but never received paperwork verifying his shares.

Ira NRG has been in the control of liquidator Clive Johnson since February 2011, but he has been unable to contact Romana to discuss the company's affairs.

In his latest liquidation report, Johnson said he would ask the registrar of companies to take action against Romana due to his lack of communication. Fairfax Media has also been unable to contact Romana, but has learned he is living in Winnipeg, the capital city of Canadian province Manitoba.

Katherine Medland, a former business partner of Romana's, contacted the Standard and said she met Romana 10 years ago when she was working at the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce. At the time he was promoting his gasification technology, and she invested $50,000 into the business.

Offices were rented and bank accounts for the company were set up in her name, she said.

The invested money was withdrawn to pay bills, but eventually ran out.

"I had recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I had invested all my retirement funds to the [business]. He became angry when I told him I could not provide any more cash to him."

Medland said her bookkeeper contacted Romana, who first denied the amount of cash he had used before saying he could pay back the $50,000 in one year if she sold her shares. Since then, she has tried to get back in touch with Romana but has had no luck.

The rent for the business's premises was late and debt collectors began to call her.

Medland has since engaged legal representation, who have also had no luck getting in touch with Romana. He has, however, left an online presence which shows what he has been up to in Winnipeg.

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An article published on the Artbeat Studio website earlier this year details how a Hai Romana from New Zealand was painting at the studio.

The studio was established to "provide studio space, community and opportunity for creative initiative to facilitate mental, spiritual and economic health".

Photos of Hai Romana are on the website, and Medland confirmed the man was Simon Romana.

"He told me his New Zealand name is Hai, but it was best to address him by Simon since that was his Canadian name," she said.

In the article on the studio website, Romana said a business relationship had "turned sour" during a trip to Winnipeg which left him there without a plane ticket home.

- Manawatu Standard

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