Oakajee backer branded dishonest

Questions raised over business background of Roland Frank Bleyer.

The Sydney entrepreneur behind a $6.5 billion plan to revive the Oakajee rail and port project in Western Australia was branded a “dishonest” businessman by a Federal Court judge over a “fraudulent” scheme involving fabricating credit card transactions though ANZ Bank.

As questions are raised over Roland Frank Bleyer’s colourful business background and his deal with ASX-listed Padbury Mining, it has emerged that judge Ian Sheppard named him as a central player in a 1990s scam that led to ANZ reclaiming almost $200,000.

The Federal Court also heard evidence that Mr Bleyer was ­accused of other fraudulent transactions and had been a party to legal action involving one other bank.

Mr Bleyer, who at the time ran a chain of hair regrowth and cosmetic surgery clinics in Australia and the US, was not cross-examined as part of the civil trial in Sydney and was not a defendant in the case between ANZ and cosmetics firm Cosmedia.

But Justice Sheppard’s 1996 findings make it clear that he believed Mr Bleyer was the architect of the credit card scheme.

The court was told that Mr Bleyer, who was then based in Los Angeles, had spoken to Cosmedia director Gregory Gordon about establishing a credit card facility in Australia.

“The establishment of the merchant facility flowed from a conversation in which Mr Gordon was exploring the possibility of exporting some of his products to the United States,” Justice Sheppard said in his judgment. “It is plain enough that Mr Bleyer was already engaged upon, or thereupon embarked upon, a dishonest course of conduct.

“This involved him in gaining access to the numbers of ­credit cards held by a variety of people all in the United States and fabricating a series of fictitious transactions which were processed through the merchant facility established by Cosmedia with the bank in Australia. The transactions had no other apparent connection with this country.

“Mr Bleyer was not called as a witness and is not a party to these proceedings.

“Accordingly, I need to exercise care in attributing dishonesty to him. But the documentary evidence is so compelling that no other conclusion is open.”

Mr Bleyer, also known as ­Roland Husner, is one of the mystery backers behind listed Perth explorer Padbury’s plan to revive the Oakajee port and rail project in WA’s Mid-West.

Padbury’s main benefactor appears to be a group called ­Alliance Super Holdings, which was established last year in a joint venture with private equity investors. Mr Bleyer, 67, is a shareholder in Superkite, the parent company of Alliance Super Holdings.

Padbury, a company with a market value of less than $70 million, told the ASX on April 11 that it had struck a deal with unnamed private Australian investors who would provide $6.5bn to build Oakajee.

Investors sent Padbury’s share price up as much as 170 per cent during the day, with volume approaching 200 million. But the ASX and Australian Securities & Investments Commission stepped in later that day to demand Padbury reveal the identity of the equity investors. Padbury has since promised to publish details of its agreements, but has twice failed to do so. Its next self-imposed deadline to keep the market informed is tomorrow morning.

Last week, Padbury was still seeking further information from investors ‘‘in respect of their capacity to meet their funding obligations” and “their consent to disclose the agreement”.

In the Federal Court case involving Mr Bleyer, the court was told Mr Gordon had been visited by representatives of Cardlink Services on behalf of ANZ.

One of the representatives, a Mr Williams, told Mr Gordon they were investigating “credit card fraud” and “money laundering”. Mr Williams said the bank would charge back to Cosmedia’s account the total of the credit card transactions. He told Mr Gordon: “Take it from me, there will be a lot of charge backs. We didn’t get Bleyer but we are going to get you.”

The court was told that ANZ’s then head of merchant operations, Graham Alabaster, had referred in a note to someone involved in “previously processing fraudulent telemarketing transactions”. Mr Gordon said in evidence he believed this was a reference to Mr Bleyer and he had become aware of legal proceedings between Mr Bleyer and Westpac Banking Corporation.

Mr Bleyer was also named in the NSW Supreme Court last month over his handling of money in a dispute between Perth-based aged-care provider Craigcare and Superkite. Judge Philip Hallen ordered that Super­kite, which he said was controlled by Mr Bleyer, pay $65,000 to Craigcare from a fund that had been set up to meet the costs of a since-abandoned joint venture. The judge found the money had been “disbursed for unrelated transactions involving Super­kite”.

Mr Bleyer could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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