Hard to see assets, or the Groves

Hard to see assets, or the Groves

AN INTERNATIONAL hunt is under way for the assets of freshly bankrupt former Brisbane millionaire Fast Eddy Groves - and the man himself.

Talk that Groves, the former head of childcare megaflop ABC Learning, has property in Canada and France is likely to be investigated by his trustee in bankruptcy, Mark Robinson of PPB Advisory.

Robinson, who was given the gig by a court in Adelaide on Tuesday, may also look at payments ABC made to a company controlled by Groves' former brother-in-law, Frank Zullo.

Zullo owned Queensland Maintenance Services, which did work on ABC Learning's centres.

ABC allegedly paid QMS $7 million in September 2008, just two months before the childcare behemoth collapsed.

Sadly, QMS itself tipped over in February last year after being hit with a $28 million tax bill. It seems the Tax Office thought a $35 million tax deduction claimed to be a "renovation compensation expense" paid to ABC was a sham.

Robinson and his crew will also be keen to have a chat with Groves himself, if they can find him. Eddie didn't turn up to court for his sequestration on Tuesday - he's out of the country, probably among the maple trees in Canada, where he holds a passport.

Groves won back the right to international travel last year, when the Queensland Supreme Court overturned a three-year travel ban imposed as part of bail conditions.

He faced criminal charges of aiding the dishonesty of fellow ABC director Martin Kemp, but they were dropped in July last year after Kemp was found not guilty.

To help him deal with Robinson, Groves has secured the services of Mark Pearce, a partner at Queensland accountancy outfit Pearce & Heers. Pearce was tight-lipped when CBD asked where his client was. "I don't think it's really for me to comment further," he said.

Loan the last straw

IT'S been a long way down for the former milkman, who at the peak of his fortune was worth an estimated $295 million and had all the rich boy toys - a sports team, basketball's Brisbane Bullets, a $2.7 million property on the Gold Coast, a $700,000 SuperAmerica Ferrari, a boat and a helicopter.

Sadly the property, boat and chopper were repossessed by Westpac after the fall of ABC - something Groves blamed on his broker, Austock, who he claimed failed to sell his ABC stock when the company was flying high in the early part of 2008.

He also tried to claim $3.3 million in unpaid wages out of the company's wreckage, including a $2.4 million golden handshake.

None of this impressed those who had bought shares in or loaned money to ABC, which owed $1.6 billion when it collapsed - and never mind the families thrown into turmoil when their childcare arrangements were suddenly upended.

But in the end, it was a $5 million loan from the CBA to buy the Adelaide Dome that tipped him into bankruptcy. ("We're pleased with the result," a CBA spokesman told CBD.)

Pearce told CBD that Groves intends to file a publicly available statement of his financial affairs within the required 14 days.

Badge of honour

ABUSE galore for White Energy director Graham Cubbin at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid.

Phone taps played to the commission on Wednesday reveal Cubbin was traduced by businessman John McGuigan, who was desperate to get a deal away that would personally enrich him by up to $60 million.

McGuigan was an investor in Cascade Coal, which was hoping to flog itself to the listed White Energy for $500 million in early 2011.

Five Cascade investors were also on the White board. Cubbin wasn't an investor, so he did the due diligence. Efforts to track down rumours that Obeid had a secret stake in Cascade, which the commission has heard was 25 per cent, went down badly with McGuigan.

"This prick Cubbin . . . he's going to have his nuts on the f---ing quarter-mast," McGuigan told fellow Cascade investor Greg Jones in a March 24, 2011, phone call.

He called for mining magnate and fellow Cascade investor Travers Duncan to "step up to the plate and start to run this f---er".

Counsel assisting the commission, Geoff Watson, said he had warned Cubbin of the "very, very candid" evidence. "He said he had no objection to it being played and in fact he wore it as a kind of badge of honour that people were saying it about him," Watson told the commission.

A bit too fair

FROM the editorial in the Brisbane Courier Mail, on March 10, 2008, as ABC teetered: "Mr Groves is hardly a fly-by-night renegade in the vein of a 1980s corporate cowboy . . . It's time to give him a fair hearing, and a fair go."

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