Skeptics put NearZero deception in firing line

00:30, Jul 10 2010

Nelson fraudster Philip Whitley and his supposed data-compression technology will be at the centre of discussions at the annual New Zealand Skeptics conference in Auckland next month.

Whitley was this week found guilty on two charges, brought by the Serious Fraud Office, resulting from his efforts to attract investors to back his claimed invention that would allow the "lossless" compression and transfer of digital data.

Whitley's claims were rejected by Canterbury University professor Tim Bell – an expert on such technology and on fraudulent claims about it – as far back as 2001, and it is Professor Bell's work that will be highlighted in the conference presentation by NZ Skeptics secretary Paul Ashton.

Mr Ashton's presentation takes a poke at Whitley's company, NearZero, and the conference schedule refers to the session as "NearZero Inc: a sadly prophetic company name". The synopsis of his presentation says the saga involving Whitley should not have happened.

Meanwhile, Whitley is be sentenced on the fraud charges on August 10.

While Judge David McKegg has issued a written guilty verdict after a 20-day district court trial earlier this year, Whitley, 49, is yet to be formally convicted on the charges.

The Serious Fraud Office told the court that between 2006 and 2007, 490 investors put $5.3 million into NearZero to pay for the development of technology that did not exist.

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The Nelson Mail