It was a mild summer’s 24-hour interval in tardily June when an Australian businessman checked into the opulent Hotel Augustus in the glitzy Tuscan seaside retreat of Forte dei Marmi.
Replete with its own individual beach, the hotel has been a traditional summer escape for film stars, musicians and captains of industry for decades and had the right facilities and reputation for a globe-trotting businessman.
What had been fit for famous stars like Charlton Heston and Jimi Hendrix was fit for bedevilled Australian fraudster and erstwhile jailbird Eustace Anthony ‘Tony’ Senese.
Yet only a month later time would stop for Tony Senese.
Accusations from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission about $four million of investors’ money evaporating would fly and his banking company accounts and those of his married woman Sandra (Sandy) and son Cameron would exist frozen.
It would be the 2d time Senese has come under scrutiny for his concern practices — he was sentenced to vii years jail in 2002 after existence found guilty of theft and imitation bookkeeping charges relating to the collapse of financial services house EC Consolidated Capital, including a $5 one thousand thousand spending spree using investor money.
Within a month of Senese’s stay at Hotel Augustus, Cameron would exist hauled in for formal interviews while his parents were in Italia to settle Tony Senese’due south family estate.
A worldwide chase for the money of potentially hundreds of Australians would soon begin with the corporate plod chasing upward leads in the Republic of seychelles, Belize and in the Britain to crack an international boiler room-style operated past binary options trading website TitanTrade.
Court documents obtained past Business 24-hour interval evidence ASIC is in the midst of a major investigation into the activities of Belize-based TitanTrade and its operators, Seychelles-registered 1 Tech Media and England’southward Ultra Solutions MG (Uk).
Binary options, including those sold by TitanTrade, allow traders to ‘bet’ on the price of an ‘nugget’ (such equally a share in a listed company) or a particular currency or article (such equally gold) within a certain fourth dimension frame. The options mean the traders never accept to actually buy or sell the underlying asset, currency or commodity.
For example, the customer bets that in 3 minutes the price of a item visitor’due south shares will exist above 50 cents. If subsequently three minutes the price is 52 cents, they are paid out a return. If the price is 49 cents, the client loses their ‘bet’ and the money is kept by the provider.
“Customers have made complaints to ASIC in relation to difficulties withdrawing funds from their online TitanTrade accounts and in relation to losses sustained by trading in binary options on the TitanTrade website,” ASIC lawyer Naomi Miller said in her affidavit seeking an urgent injunction to shut down the site.
Autonomously from the difficulties some customers have had withdrawing their money, TitanTrade uses banality room-style tactics, such as loftier pressure sales including frequent Skype conversations, to convince customers to bet big and bet often.
According to Miller, Titantrade’southward account managers would “regularly contact the customer by telephone and Skype voice call” and “encourage Australian customers to make deposits of funds to One Tech Media, Ultra Solutions and/or Allianz Metro”.
TitanTrade has been operating around the globe for years. From Spain, France, Russia, England and America customers accept been venting their anger against the visitor and telling a like story – either the funds they deposited in TitanTrade and winnings from bets can’t be withdrawn or their money has disappeared in a flurry of uninformed, risky bets.
ASIC outset became aware of the TitanTrade website in April, according to Miller’s affidavit when a Perth-based retiree in his mid 70s, or Customer A as he is referred to in court documents, fabricated a complaint to the watchdog.
More than unnamed customers have since emerged and all have a similar story to Customer A, though Miller says in her affidavit it is unclear how many Australian are affected by the trader.
According to ASIC’s affidavits, approximately $four.16 one thousand thousand ploughed into TitanTrade by its customers – including Australians – has been deposited into the business banking company account held in the name of Tony Senese’southward business concern Allianz Metro.
From there, around $2.6 meg has flowed to Ane Tech Media while nearly $one.five million, the residuum, has been “dispersed” by Allianz Metro into several different accounts, including into the personal and business organization accounts of Tony Senese, his wife Sandy, the business organization business relationship of Cameron Senese and the business concern and personal accounts of former Toorak resident Yoav Ida.
ASIC alleges Tony, Sandy and Cameron Senese, a clutch of their family businesses including Allianz Metro and former Toorak resident Yoav Ida are all “associates or agents” of 1 Tech Media and Ultra Solutions and have “received, and are property or in control of moneys and other belongings derived from, and related to, the carrying on of the unlicensed financial services business”.
ASIC’s affidavits confirm information technology is also investigating whether One Tech, Ultra Solutions, the Seneses, their companies, Ida and his companies have fabricated false or misleading statements and representations, misled and deceived traders, acted unconscionably and deceptively raised funds.
According to ASIC the Seneses splashed their earnings from their alleged interest in Titantrade’south Australian arm on holidays at luxury spas in Bali, dinners at famed Melbourne fine eatery Grossi Florentino, mortgage repayments for their pile in Sandringham besides equally a shopping trip for Sandy to the Duomo piazza in Milan as well as a stay at the Hotel Augustus in Forte dei Marmi.
In August, ASIC sounded the alarm about the site in the form of a brief discover on its website.
The sting for TitanTrade is simple and information technology’due south effective.
While browsing the spider web one day, Customer A stumbled beyond a TitanTrade ad which led him to the company’south website and despite non having any experience in binary selection trading paid the $250 registration fee. “He thought the website looked professional, and it promised loftier returns”, Miller says in her affidavit.
Before long later on, Customer A was contacted by an account manager who said his name was ‘David Garcia’. He said he was based in London and was head banker of TitanTrade and he convinced Customer A to invest more.
Client A’s dabble in binary options would exist costly and brief. Subsequently 34 days he had burned $100,000 on TitanTade’southward binary options and his residue was 90 cents.
Customer B, a more experienced binary trader from Victoria, won some of his bets and has an account balance of nearly $90,000 but it’s unclear whether he can withdraw the funds.
Who owns and controls One Tech Media and Ultra Solutions is currently a mystery to ASIC. The Seychelles, a renowned secrecy jurisdiction, is “unable to provide information regarding shareholders and directors of companies”, while Ultra Solutions currently has no manager appointed to it, Miller says in court documents.
While the Seneses and Ida are yet to file whatsoever defences or, more importantly, exist formally defendant of any wrongdoing, it is believed they will debate they were supplying a credit menu payment platform to TitanTrade and have nothing to practice with Titantrade’s unlicensed, allegedly illegal activities. This theory is somewhat supported by ASIC’south own affidavit which notes that “Allianz Associates are the pay agents of One Tech Media”.
Lawyer for the Senese family unit and Ida, Jonathan Kenny, told Business 24-hour interval that “no accusation of wrongdoing has been fabricated confronting any of my clients.”
“None of my clients were involved in operating the website, which is the website ASIC contend was operating a business without a licence.”
TitanTrade did not reply to enquiries.
ASIC has asked the courtroom for more time to investigate the activities and will report back to the Federal Courtroom of Commonwealth of australia approximate Justice Jennifer Davies in November.
In the meantime Ida will remain as he has been for years a resident of Israel and Tony and Sandy will continue their Italy trip and “pursue opportunities in IT” in the country — another pit terminate at Hotel Augustus might even exist on the cards.