- RITA PANAHI
- HERALD SUN
- MARCH 06, 2014 11:00PM
EXCLUSIVE: AN emotional Bill Vlahos has declared he is not a conman in his first interview since the collapse of his multimillion-dollar punting club.
The mastermind of The Edge gambling syndicate said: “I haven’t robbed or conned anybody. Absolutely not.”
In an exclusive interview with the Herald Sun Mr Vlahos said threats, hired heavies and punters who lost money have pushed him into hiding.
And he is preparing himself for the possibility of prison.
“In conversation with my wife and my family and lawyer everything is on the table,” Mr Vlahos said.
“I may not be qualified right now, but I am a psychologist, so I’m pretty attuned in terms of making sure the kids are well looked after and that we are making decisions about the future with everything on the table.”
Mr Vlahos’s punting club owes creditors at least $144 million. But investors claim unpaid winnings total more than $500 million.
Mr Vlahos became emotional when asked where he thought he’d be in three years.
“In three years I hope that every single person who has lost money has got it back,” Mr Vlahos said, shedding tears.
“I think I’m a bit emotional because I became a psychologist for a reason,” he said.
“And it was about people having a certain lifestyle …”
Mr Vlahos, whose passport has been confiscated, also vowed not to flee despite several investigations.
“Hopefully there is no music to face because our investigations will find what we need to and it’s hunky dory.
“But as I’ve said, I’ve come back from overseas when I was halfway across the world and we’ve stayed in this jurisdiction. We’re staying here. I am meeting my obligations.”
Mr Vlahos said he is constrained by legal advice from detailing what he believes happened to the punting fortune.
But he insists the mysterious Daniel Maxwell he has previously blamed at court for his woes is not a figment of his imagination.
“I know I haven’t taken anyone’s money, I know that I haven’t siphoned money anywhere. The whole time I thought the money was still there, and we were going to wind it up.”
Asked if there was any money left, he said he could not answer that until the trustees and administrators had finished their work.
He also denied he was behind the firebombing of his ute, containing a laptop and documents, at his Connewarre property near Geelong.
“We had about $20,000 worth of uninsured jewellery that went, it had all my kids clothes, all my clothes.. I packed everything into the ute, kids cricket bags, toys.
“It was everything we owned. And that’s why we had to go to the school to get clothes for the kids out of lost property because my accounts were frozen as well.”
Mr Vlahos’s collapsed racing company BC3 Thoroughbreds was the highest bidder, at $5 million, for the half-brother of Black Caviar, Jimmy, who died suddenly after contracting laminitis last year.
“Not to pooh-pooh Racing Victoria because they have a job to do but, having seen the brief, anything to do with Jimmy I just don’t understand how that’s got to do with me,” Mr Vlahos said.
He denied he had a gambling addiction, stating: “No, I only gamble when I can win.
“I am not allowed to have a punt anymore. I’ve been banned, I’m not allowed to enter a sweepstakes or have a bet.”
In response to reports he was bankrolling parties with two Melbourne strippers while the punters’ club collapsed, he said he had “limited contact with the girls since April and any contact I’ve had my wife has been aware of”.
Mr Vlahos denies he paid the girls any money to accompany him to Dubai and that he only paid for their airfares and accommodation.
“The girls were interested in the (racing) industry as well,” he said.
Mr Vlahos said suggestions his wife, Joanne, may have been involved in the scheme were “rubbish”.
“I do know I haven’t conned or robbed anyone,” Mr Vlahos said.
When it was suggested a court could find otherwise Mr Vlahos replied: “I know I haven’t, the court may find that I have.”
It is understood Mr Vlahos has not given a formal interview to police and his lawyer has been handling inquiries from the force.
“I think what is going to come out of this is: This guy is a f**king idiot. He did all this and didn’t make money,” Mr Vlahos said.
“I haven’t robbed or conned anybody, absolutely not.”
He said he had concerns for the safety of his wife Joanne and his two primary age children.
“I accept that people have lost money. There are a lot of people that have made a heap of money as well not putting their hands up and are not being seen to be part of the story. In fact more people made money than lost money.
“But at the same time I wouldn’t want to portray myself as a martyr or as a victim despite the fact that there’s some serious fears for me and my family at the moment.”
“The funds that I’m accessing are funds that we’re borrowing from family … Joanne is one of a number of children in her family. All the siblings are helping. So that’s where we are day to day … I haven’t got a stash of money,” he said.
“I know what it’s like not to have money now because that’s the situation of my family”
|THE BIG QUESTIONS|
Q: How did we get here?
A: “From my perspective it’s as much as shock as for anyone else. I don’t have any more intimate knowledge about how we got here than anyone else other than that I feel like I’ve lost money as well and I’m trying to find the answers.”
Q: What is your message for the people who lost?
A:“I don’t know if I’ve got a message at the moment because I’m not sure of all the facts yet and what’s happened and whether the money is there and who’s responsible.”
Q:Are you going to hang around to face the music?
A:“Absolutely, hopefully there is no music to face because our investigations find what we need to and its honky dory but as I’ve said I’ve come back from overseas when I was halfway across the world and we’ve stayed in this jurisdiction.”
Q: Worse case scenario, have you started preparing yourself for serving a jail term?
A: “I worry about that (jail), I worry about staying alive, I worry about finding Daniel, I worry about kids, I worry about my family staying together, I worry about paying my lawyer, I worry about a lot of things…the worst case scenario doesn’t occupy my thoughts more than those.”
Q: Has there been any close calls with thugs you’re hiding from?
A: “(On one incident) My wife was there so that was a pretty scary moment, and I wasn’t. They threatened her and this is why we decided that we were going to pack up the farmhouse and move all our stuff out when I ran into the people that were there. And they’ve been around to our residence and kicked the front door in.”
Q: What do you say to people who say Daniel Maxwell is not real?
A: This has become such a circus that people have gone into hiding. There are a lot of people that are comfortable for me to be in the hot seat. But there will be people that will meet Daniel soon and other people that would indicate that they’ve met Daniel.
Q: How did you meet Maxwell?
A: Can’t talk about it.