Arrest warrant for Swiss playboy who faded on Serepisos

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 05:00 10/08/2014
Ahsan Ali Syed
Reuters
WANTED: Ahsan Ali Syed, pictured while still the owner of Racing Santander celebrating a goal during a Spanish first-division soccer match in Santander.

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EXCLUSIVE: Failed developer Terry Serepisos' liquidators are moving to recover $450,000 he sent to an alleged Swiss scam.

A four-year Sunday Star-Times investigation into Western Gulf Advisory and its elusive founder Ahsan Ali Syed has detailed a globe-spanning Nigerian-style advance fee scam that reaped tens of millions of dollars from distressed businesspeople in return for promised low-interest loans that never arrived.

Syed used the proceeds to live a playboy lifestyle, buying a private jet and Spanish La Liga football club Racing Santander. The jet was subsequently repossessed and Racing Santander was made bankrupt and relegated.

The high-profile Serepisos, who founded the Wellington Phoenix A-League football club, had publicly used his promised US$100 million loan from WGA to delay bankruptcy proceedings. But the loan never arrived, and he was bankrupted in September 2011, owing more than $200m.

John Fisk of PWC, acting as liquidator of more than a dozen Serepisos companies, said a two-week probe of company accounts had uncovered considerable sums sent to WGA's accounts in Switzerland.

Fisk said $450,000 appeared to have been paid by New Millennium Design, and he had submitted a claim for that sum to Mark van Leewarden, a private investigator and lawyer who had secured freezing orders against WGA.

Leewarden is co-ordinating the distribution of $8.25m in seized assets to WGA victims owed $23m. These assets, comprising cash found in 20 Credit Suisse accounts in Zurich and the Bahamas and an apartment, could see victims owed millions repaid 30 cents in the dollar.

Based off typical contracts used by the Swiss and Bahrain-based firm, it is understood Serepisos advanced $1.8m in total to WGA but Fisk said how any balance was paid remains a mystery.

"If there was more than $450,000 paid I think we would have to assume at this stage that it was paid by a third party," he said.

Serepisos did not return reply to request for comment.

In further developments in the WGA case, Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung reported an arrest warrant had been issued against Syed in September last year and Zurich's chief prosecutor Martin Buergisser confirmed a criminal case was live.

In addition to a string of debts and victims in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Brazil and the United States, the newspaper revealed WGA had also run up large unpaid bills in Switzerland.

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Sonntagszeitung reported Syed had purchased a plush apartment in the central Swiss province of Nidwalden in 2010. racked up $260,000 in renovation costs and then fled the country without paying for them. The apartment was subsequently seized by Swiss prosecutors with sales proceeds going to victims.

Syed, who has not responded to Sunday Star-Times requests for comment over the past four years, is understood to be now living in the United Kingdom using an assumed name.

- Sunday Star Times

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