The boss of multinational computer games developer Interzone closed the company's lead development studio in Bentley last night amid claims the company owes more than $1.5 million in unpaid wages, superannuation and taxes.
Despite this about 10 Interzone employees remain outside the Technology Park premises protesting the treatment they've received, claiming they are owed more than $500,000 in unpaid superannuation and back-pay.
At its peak Interzone had approximately 160 employees based at four locations globally, including Brazil, China and the United States, with 50 developers based in the Perth studio.
It had also received state government backing to the tune of $500,000 as part of a three-year deal announced by the then Industry and Enterprise Minister Francis Logan in March 2007.
US-based Interzone chief executive, director and majority shareholder, Marty Brickey last night ordered his vice president of business operations, Mike Turner to attach an announcement to the front door of the office accepting responsibility for unpaid wages while revoking employee access to the studio.
"We accept that we owe you wages and are currently determining the amount owed and are working diligently to raise funds in the USA that will be distributed according to the priority as set out by law," Mr Brickey stated in the announcement.
"Please note the only person allowed on or within the premises of Interzone is Vice President of Business Operations Mike Turner and anyone he so nominates or brings with himself onto the premises.
"NO ONE ELSE IS PERMITTED TO ENTER THE PREMISES.
"ALL ACCESS IS HEREBY REVOKED AND ANY ENTRY WHATSOEVER WILL CONSITUTE TRESPASSING."
WA Business News understands that Mr Turner, who flew into Australia this week, plans to remove all the intellectual property (IP) from the site, including the latest games development data and computer servers, and return to the US on Saturday.
Upon his return, it's understood that Mr Brickey and Mr Turner will complete the existing games development project with a small contracted team of developers, essentially taking with them the Western Australian employees' last 18 months worth of work, leaving them with little to show for it except for a long list of questions and even longer list of demands for unpaid wages and superannuation.
WA Business News has also obtained an earlier email from Mr Brickey, addressed to "current or former members of IZ (Interzone) Perth that have outstanding pay, termination or Super owed to them", suggesting the Perth studio would only be closed temporarily.
"Although it looks as if we will be forced to wind up IZ Perth as a studio for now - this is not definitive as we will attempt to work through the legal channels to get super paid before wind up procedures commence or complete - we have no intention of abandoning anyone there," Mr Brickey said in the email.
However, Mr Brickey also addressed his concerns of "sabotage" and "scuttlebutt" among past and present employees.
"Consider how far you are willing to go for your termination and super then try to understand how far our investor's are willing to go to protect millions of dollars in investment," Mr Brickey said in the email.
"Eight of our major investors are already independently retaining council (sic) in Perth and are reading (sic) to strike hard and fast at anyone committing tortuous interference, slander, or liable against the company."
The various past and present employees spoken to by WA Business News all claimed to have significant monies owed to them, some as much as $20,000 including superannuation and unpaid wages.
Next week's edition of WA Business News will have an in-depth report on the Interzone saga.