Westpac bank advances $10m, not $10,000. Oddly, NZ now short 2 BP franchisees

May 21, 2009

BPNZYou have to have some sympathy for the banker.

But not much when you know their full involvement in financing franchises in New Zealand in the last couple of years.

The New Zealand Herald reports today on a service station franchisee couple taking it on the lamb, Runaway millionaires named – may have fled to Asia:

Interpol is leading a worldwide hunt for the Rotorua couple who have fled with millions of dollars worth of Westpac’s money.

The couple, who ran Rotorua’s BP Barnetts service station on Old Taupo Road, are Leo Gao and Australian girlfriend Cara Young.

They are understood to have applied to Westpac Bank for a $10,000 overdraft and mistakenly had $10 million paid into their account.

All legality and morality aside, you have to stop and think “What Would I Do” in this situation? Pretty easy to be sanctimonious when you’ve never been tempted to am-scray.

As usual the most interesting bits are from experienced police officers:

Detective Senior Sergeant David Harvey held a media conference in Rotorua this afternoon, but would not confirm any speculation. When asked where police believed the money had gone, he simply replied “overseas”, before refusing to answer any further questions.

$6-million: That’s simply amateur hour when compared to professional thievery such as Blue Chip. The Austrialia-based bank stands to lose big-time if the investors’ lawyer can convince New Zealand courts that the contracts are either unenforceable or void.

Westpac is frequently mentioned as the money behind the Blue Chip fiasco. the latest article is Westpac embroiled in New Zealand property fall-out.

Auckland barrister Paul Dale is launching a High Court challenge on behalf of more than 250 investors. Dale says his clients’ contracts are illegal for a number of reasons including that they breached the country’s Securities Act and Fair Trading Act.

If Dale is successful and the contracts are thrown out the developers will be left with a glut of apartments unsold and unrented, with price tags well below what they originally sold for. Standing behind the developers is Westpac. The Australian bank has been a major player in the New Zealand property market and has financed a number of developers that did business with Blue Chip.

Thank God for Paul Dale because from what I have seen the New Zealand government has done nothing to help the victims of Mark Bryers’ +80 million franchise fraud.

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New Zealand announces a franchise regulation review at a sales expo

August 18, 2008

The national Labour government of Helen Clark announced on August 15th that:

The Ministry of Economic Development is conducting a review of franchising regulation to explore whether there are any widespread problems in the franchising sector which may require franchise specific regulation.

The announcement, via the Ministry of Economic Development, can be seen here or the Discussion Paper can be downloaded here [Review of Franchising Regulation in New Zealand, pdf]

  • There have certainly been enough high profile franchise nightmares and spectacular fraud investigations to justify this action: Blue Chip, Green Acres, Green Power. And, usually, only the most severe ever surface into the national media [tip of the iceberg].

Further coverage was provided by the Franchise New Zealand trade magazine in an article named: Government Wants Feedback on Franchise Regulation.

Interestingly, the Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel made the government’s annoucement at a franchise sales show. You can see her entire speech here and please find below Minister Dalziel’s concluding remarks to her franchisor marketing and franchise banker audience:

Can I conclude by congratulating all of you for participating in this Expo and can I thank the Franchise Association for its advocacy for a sector that is a vital part of the New Zealand economy. Can I acknowledge the sponsorship of Westpac – these events don’t happen without sponsors – and can I congratulate those of you who have been chosen as the ‘show stoppers’ for going the extra mile.

It is important, at certain times, to remind those in authority that they serve citizens’ interests as well as corporate interests.

  • I would encourage franchise investors and those affected by no franchise industry oversight [such as Blue Chip] to voice their opinions to their elected officials, current government, media outlets and financial institutions.

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