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African scheme sunk

PERSISTENT efforts by scam artists operating from Nigeria may have finally paid dividends, with 400 WA investors likely to lose about $2.7 million to an investment apparently linked to an African oil company.

Raised largely from members of WA investment groups known as The Manhattan Club and The Chase Investment Club, the money was allegedly lost by two companies operating illegally-managed in-vestment schemes.

Clout and Associates’ Louis Nilant has been appointed as liquidator of the two companies, Chase Capital Management Pty Ltd and Leadenhall Funds Management Pty Ltd, as well as the two investment schemes.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission alleges the two illegal schemes were run through promoters David Llewelyn Hicks, Irene Anne Percy and Jamie Jo Sims.

The clubs’ members met regularly from 1999, received a monthly newsletter called “Millionaires Corner” and invested in several arrangements, mainly in technology.

ASIC began investigating the group a year ago after receiving an inquiry about the scheme’s legality.

Earlier, as receiver and manager, Mr Nilant submitted a report to the WA Supreme Court which identified almost $US1.4 million owed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to a Hong Kong entity.

If found to be true, the funds could well be a payoff for thousands of faxes and emails from Nigerian fraudsters seeking funds from WA.

Businesses have been bombarded with offers of big profits in return for financing various well-connected, Nigerians who claim to need funding to unlock millions of dollars salted out of the oil-rich country.

It is not known whether the individual investors knew their money was destined for Africa but a promoter had sought to convince Mr Nilant that the NNPC was the ultimate debtor.

But Mr Nilant said it was unclear just where the money had gone, despite his investigations revealing an apparent money trail to Nigeria.

“The money has just disappeared down a gullet,” Mr Nilant said.

Nigerian scams have attracted significant publicity and there is a possibility the NNPC was a convenient way to end the paper trail.

“It is Nigerian, it is a scam. You ring and there is no-one there,” Mr Nilant said.

“Personally, I am extremely suspicious the way these investments have been made.”

According to Mr Nilant’s report, initial interviews with the scheme promoters did not shed much light on how the money paid to a Hong Kong entity called Displaytex International was invested.

The report shows Mr Hicks stated in an affidavit on July 4 last year that the funds “are invested throughout the world including London, Hong Kong and New York”.

A month later Mr Hicks produced documents that purported to show the two schemes were owed almost $US1.4 million by Displaytex which in turn was a creditor of NNPC.

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