Ex-director charged with taking funds to pay gambling debts

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Bankrupt businessman Andrew Sigalla may face jail after being charged with dishonestly using more than $6 million belonging to the company he ran to pay gambling debts to high-profile bookmaker Tom Waterhouse.

Mr Sigalla appeared on Thursday in Sydney’s Central Local Court on 16 charges of breaching his duties as a director of TZ Limited, which is now run by Celebrity Apprentice star Mark Bouris.The Australian Securities and Investments Commission alleges Mr Sigalla dipped into the company’s bank accounts 16 times between March 2008 and March 2009, using most of the money to pay Mr Waterhouse and the remainder to pay off a mortgage. The charges laid on Thursday are the latest fallout from Mr Sigalla’s tenure at TZ. Last year, the NSW Supreme Court convicted Mr Sigalla of contempt after he breached a court order by failing to disclose almost $30,000 in credit card payments to escort agencies to ASIC. At the time he denied personally using the services of the escort agencies, telling the court they were used by a guest who paid him back in cash. Mr Sigalla was made bankrupt in July 2010 on the application of Mr Waterhouse, to whom he owed $2.6 million under a Victorian Supreme Court order. Mr Bouris took control of TZ, which makes electronic lockers, in mid-2009 and has since been working to turn the struggling company around. Under Mr Bouris, TZ launched a $7.5 million legal claim against Mr Sigalla that was later settled out of court.

Mr Sigalla did not enter a plea and was granted bail. He must surrender his passport to ASIC.



Jockey Brenton Avdulla cuts ties with Comanchero bikie gang after warning

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CHIEF steward Ray Murrihy last night said there were no jockeys in NSW with current links to outlaw bikie gangs after Brenton Avdulla was warned by police for consorting with members of the Comanchero.

Avdulla yesterday told The Daily Telegraph he had quickly cut all ties with the people in question once it was pointed out who they were.

Racing stewards first received intelligence about Avdulla associating with Comanchero last September and promptly passed the matter on to the Casino and Racing Investigation Unit.

Earlier this month, the unit cleared Avdulla of having any further contact with the Comanchero but issued him a warning for consorting with an outlaw bikie gang.

Avdulla will next Monday front Racing NSW’s licensing committee. His hearing was brought forward after they learned of the police warning.

While it is highly unlikely the 23-year-old will be denied a new licence to ride in races, Avdulla expressed his disappointment at being unwittingly caught up in the latest drama.

It was only last year the jockey made headlines for conduct in a toilet cubicle at an eastern suburbs hotel.

The bikie link also comes just two days after racing finally put to bed the More Joyous saga.

“As soon as I found out who they were, that was the end of it,” Avdulla said after his only ride at Canterbury.

“I guess it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s disappointing because I’ve worked so hard the past eight months getting the support of trainers, and then this comes out (in the press), which happened eight months ago. It’s nothing that has been turned into something.”

Murrihy said the Casino and Racing Investigation Unit had since contacted Racing NSW and confirmed the contact between Avdulla and the bikie gang had ceased. The unit added there were no issues warranting investigation.

Murrihy said there were no other jockeys under the spotlight, despite young hoops being prime targets for criminal gangs.

“Jockeys are young, have a lot of money and are impressionable, and so they can be easy targets for these groups endeavouring to recruit people,” Murrihy said. “We have to ensure jockeys’ conduct away from the track doesn’t impact on the image of racing, and we certainly can’t have a situation where a jockey is having a social relationship (with bikies) and continue to participate.

“There are no other jockeys currently in NSW that have an association.

“We don’t have any information of other links.

“You only have to look at state legislation now where it is an offence to consort with bikies, and if you receive three warnings, you’re entitled to a penalty.”

Avdulla has emerged as a force in the riding ranks in the past six months, and punched home a few winners during the autumn carnival, including Arinosa in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes.


Jockey to be Missen after ban

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LEADING provincial jockey Dale Missen was yesterday rubbed out of racing for one year after he was found guilty of failing to let favourite Destars “run on its merits” in a race at the Gold Coast last month.

Racing Queensland stewards issued Missen with the most serious charge a jockey can face after two weeks of analysing the jockey’s riding style and various angles of the race.

A furious Missen last night said he had already engaged a lawyer and barrister to assist with an appeal, declaring there was no betting evidence to suggest he had anything to gain by the horse getting beaten.

Destars was a $2.60 favourite when he finished fourth in a Class 1 Handicap (1200m) on April 27.

Senior steward Norm Torpey, who was chairman of stewards at the Gold Coast meeting, said there were three aspects of the race where Missen had breached the rules of racing.

Stewards found Missen:

* Failed to move Destars into a three-wide position into clear running from a point passing the 600m until near the 500m.

* Failed to take a run between Tiger Print and Fine Gold near the 400m when there was an opportunity to do so.

* Failed to ride the horse with sufficient vigour from the 300m until near the 100m.

Torpey described the charge as a serious matter.

“Stewards formed a strong opinion that his actions over the final 600m were deliberate and conscious actions designed not to allow Destars to run on its merits,” he wrote in the steward’s report.

A shattered Missen was adamant stewards had no evidence to sustain the charge.

“I’m still shocked, to be honest,” he said.

“The betting records show there was nothing untoward in the race. There was no money on Betfair for the horse to get beat, there was no real moves for any other runner. The horse ran again on Saturday and had a similar run before finishing seventh out of eight horses.

“There was nothing for me to gain by the horse getting beat. I’ve been riding for 13 years and never had a charge like this brought against me.”

Torpey confirmed there were no unusual betting trends in the race.

Missen is regarded as one of Queensland’s most vigorous riders.

Destars appeared to drop out of the race at the top of the straight before he finished quickly to run fourth in the event.

Stewards also called trainer Les Kelly and owner Bill Xantos to give evidence at the hearing.

However stewards did not believe they had a case to answer.

“We asked them to attend the inquiry but did not believe they were party to a breach of the rules,” Torpey said.

Stewards disqualified Missen for 12 months.

Missen is awaiting a date for his appeal to be heard.


Informer outlines race fixing

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Richard Burt

WA’s peak horse racing authority has been rocked by allegations of systemic race fixing involving Eastern States betting syndicates, with up to 10 WA jockeys on their payroll.

In an extraordinary letter last month to racing industry leaders, including Racing and Wagering WA chief executive Richard Burt, the author highlighted five races since December that he believed were “manipulated” by the syndicates.

“The information I have accumulated isn’t just the races that have been fixed,” he wrote.

“I also have the list of individuals involved and the mobile telephone numbers associated with most of those individuals.”

Mr Burt said yesterday the allegations were taken seriously and investigated by an expert panel, which found no evidence to substantiate the claims after studying video evidence of the races.

“We treated it at the highest level,” Mr Burt said. “We believe the claims are inaccurate. We would argue the races were in accordance with the rules of racing.”

The letter, which was obtained by _The West Australian _ amid speculation its author is a leading Perth jockey, named four other jockeys allegedly involved in Perth and country race day stings.

None of those jockeys was spoken to as part of the RWWA inquiry.

“The past 12 to 18 months in WA racing have been the worst I have ever known for race manipulation,” the letter said. “I should know as I have been involved indirectly.”

The author called on race officials to investigate phone records and money trails that led to suspected jockeys.

He described the betting syndicates as “well-oiled machines” that used the teams of jockeys to set up wins for horses that have been the targets of significant betting plunges.

“The bottom line is that what is occurring on the track is systematic abuse,” he wrote. “It is insider trading as inside knowledge is being used for financial gain. If the truth did come out it would be very embarrassing for RWWA and the State Government.”

Mr Burt agreed there was a perception in the industry that a lot of money was being wagered in WA from syndicates in the east.

“It’s important to manage the reality and the perception of integrity in the industry,” Mr Burt said.

“We’re putting on another investigator. We’ll be seeking more pre-race analysis and betting information so we can see what’s happening in the betting markets and how the race should unfold according to those betting markets.

“What we have to be careful of is not overreacting to normal things that unfold in racing.”

The letter said one of the methods used by the syndicates was to organise jockeys to allow a horse which naturally leads out in a race to stay in front and win. In one example given, the price for the horse shortened significantly before the start and the horse was a surprise winner.

“Apprentices have limited involvement, but that will change,” the letter’s author wrote. “The breeding ground is toxic and something has to be done. Your next generation could be totally tainted.”

In February, RWWA completed an inquiry into separate claims about race fixing by a Sydney betting syndicate and found “misinformation and unfounded speculation” were behind the allegations.

RWWA said at the time there was no evidence of inconsistent betting patterns or any correlation to a rider’s mounts being backed.

But in the letter last month, RWWA was warned if no action was taken over the allegations it would be referred to the Corruption and Crime Commission.

The author claimed to have provided all the information to a lawyer.

“Go back a couple of weeks,” he wrote. “The race was won by (name deleted). I can assure everyone the race was well and truly determined before the gates opened.”

Mr Burt said he was not interested in the author’s identity and accepted that whistleblowers were needed in racing.

“We’ve investigated it,” he said. “We’ve put it to the highest people in the industry. We’ve committed more resources.”


Race caller Rod Fuller 46 fraud charges

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NORTHERN Rivers race caller Rodney Fuller, of Coffs Harbour, is facing 46 criminal charges relating to more than $200,000 worth of tax evasion.

Mr Fuller, who resigned from his position with Sky Racing in September, is being prosecuted by the Australian Tax Office and appeared in Coffs Harbour Local Court on Tuesday charged with:

  •  30 counts of obtain financial advantage by deception;
  •  Nine counts of producing false or misleading documents;
  •  Five counts of defrauding the Commonwealth; and,
  •  Two counts of attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception.

The charges, which vary in dollar value, are alleged to have occurred over many years, with one charge dated 1999.

It will be alleged Mr Fuller claimed false tax refunds when lodging tax returns.

Mr Fuller has not lodged a plea in relation to any of the matters.

The matter is up for mention in Coffs Harbour Local Court on October 30.

A spokesman for Tabcorp, Sky Racing’s parent company, said Mr Fuller had been a race caller for Sky for more than 20 years and covered meetings in Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Taree and Lismore.

The spokesman said Mr Fuller would be replaced by a number of callers currently employed by Sky.

He refused to comment further because the matter was before the court.

Trainer Tony Vasil fined for raceday treatment of Classic Elle

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CAULFIELD trainer Tony Vasil will consider an appeal after being fined $10,000 for race day treatment of his galloper Classic Elle.

Racing Victoria stewards charged Vasil after the mare was discovered at his stables on January 25, the day of the Friday night Moonee Valley meeting, with dried blood on her neck.

Vasil maintained his innocence, pleaded not guilty, and declared: “I gave the horse nothing on race day, nothing at all|”.

But chairman of stewards Terry Bailey said Vasil would pay the same penalty as several others in recent months, including his Aquanita co-trainer Robert Smerdon.

Vasil suggested that the mare may have punctured her neck on a protruding wire mess in her yard.

RV’s vetinerarian Dr Brian Stewart said any puncture in the neck may have caused the blood and swelling, but that it would take “exceptional circumstances for that to have occured”.

The stewards accepted Dr Stewart’s version and fined Vasil $10,000.

He has three days to lodge an appeal.

Source: Herald Sun