18 Apr 2021
Phoenix Thoroughbreds, one of the biggest investors in Australian race horses, has had its prize money frozen in NSW and Victoria following allegations in a US court its founder was involved in money laundering.
Racing NSW chairman of stewards Marc Van Gestel said the prize money would be set aside while legal cases overseas implicating the Dubai-based racehorse investor were resolved.
“Racing NSW has investigated the matter, and any allegation made in respect to legal proceedings internationally is denied by Mr [Amer] Abdulaziz,” Mr Van Gestel said in an email.
“Pending the outcome of those matters, Racing NSW is freezing the prizemoney of horses raced by Phoenix Thoroughbreds.”
Racing NSW and other Australian racing bodies said in August 2020 that they were looking into Phoenix’s operations after it was banned that month from racing in France.
In January, Phoenix and Canberra casino owner Tony Fung spent $11.6 million on 19 horses at the Magic Millions yearlings sale, which was more than any other buyer, according to an online database kept by the Gold Coast auction business.
The same month, Racing NSW and Racing Victoria decided that Phoenix’s winnings in the state would be put aside while any legal cases involving the company were conducted. The decisions were not made public until the racing authorities were contacted by AFR Weekend.
Amer Abdulaziz Salman was the biggest buyer at this year’s Magic Millions racehorse sale.
Phoenix has been banned from French racecourses and suspended from British racing following widely publicised allegations in a US court that it was used to launder the proceeds of a $4 billion cryptocurrency scam from Bulgaria called OneCoin.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated in 2019 that Australians lost about €500 million ($770 million) by buying OneCoin tokens that turned out to be worthless. Australian authorities refuse to comment on the scam.
A US lawyer found guilty of laundering about $US400 million for OneCoin is due to be sentenced next month, and the FBI is investigating Phoenix, according one of its former top executives, Tom Ludt.
“While these legal proceedings remain ongoing, RV [Racing Victoria] has decided to place a freeze on Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ portion of prizemoney earned by horses they own or part-own,” a spokeswoman said.
“Should any information come to light via these legal proceedings or other means that warrant further action being taken within our jurisdiction then we will consider it at the time.”
By Aaron Patrick, The Australian Financial Review, 16 April 2021
Read more at The Australian Financial Review
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