Posted: Sun Jun 11, 2006 9:24 am Post subject: Packer's kidney donor helicopter pilot loses life savings.
NICK Ross, the helicopter pilot who famously gave Kerry Packer a few more years of life by donating a kidney, has lost his life savings in an apparent scam.
A Sydney court heard yesterday that Gregory Jordy Hare, one of Mr Ross's most trusted friends, stole nearly $2 million the former Channel Nine pilot earned working with the late media baron.
Mr Hare, a 40-year-old banker who was to be Mr Ross's best man at his wedding on Hayman Island in April this year, was arrested in the northern Sydney suburb of Roseville following a lengthy investigation by detectives from nearby Chatswood.
Mr Ross's wedding to Karin Lee, a former executive secretary at the Packer family's ACP magazine publishing business, has been postponed.
Mr Hare, a father of four, was charged with 40 counts of fraud committed against Mr Ross and others, including a QANTAS pilot and one of his children's teachers.
Police claimed in Hornsby Court that the alleged frauds netted Mr Hare $2.2 million.
The police have informed me of Mr Hare's arrest," Mr Ross said from his Sydney home yesterday.
"The matter is now in the criminal courts and I can't comment any further."
Mr Ross, 64, donated a kidney to the billionaire Packer in 2000. It is unclear how much money Mr Ross received in return but Packer, who died on Boxing Day last year, ensured his former pilot had a comfortable retirement.
The statement of facts tendered to the court alleged that between August 2003 and April this year Mr Ross gave Mr Hare more than $1.9 million to buy shares in gold, oil and copper.
Police allege Mr Ross and one of his navy colleagues Keith Logan met Mr Hare for financial advice when the pair was attempting to establish a national helicopter rescue program.
The Australian understands the program involved the purchase of the world's biggest helicopter, a Russian MI-26, which can carry 20 tonnes of water in a bucket beneath it. The plan was to use the helicopter in relief and rescue operations around Australia in times of bushfire, floods and civil strife.
The fact sheet said Mr Ross and Mr Logan approached Mr Hare at the investment bank Investec for help to finance the helicopter rescue program.
Police allege that in early 2003 Mr Hare was experiencing financial difficulties, and began a course of fraudulent dealings with Mr Ross by pretending to buy gold options on his behalf that earned quick returns.
Mr Hare was instead depositing the investment money into his own personal bank accounts, the police alleged, with no gold or options ever purchased.
In May last year, while Mr Hare and Mr Ross were having a celebratory dinner, happy with their allegedly phantom gold investments, police claim Mr Hare said the gold trading was about to lead to a $28 million profit.
The Australian understands the alleged fraud came unstuck last year when Mr Ross ordered two Porsche cars and tried to pay for them with the pair's joint venture account. It was then he discovered there were insufficient funds.
In December last year, Mr Ross took civil action in the Federal Court of Australia, resulting in Mr Hare being declared a bankrupt. He was ordered to pay back the money to Mr Ross.
But police allege Mr Hare continued to act fraudulently after being declared bankrupt.
It is understood that Mr Ross used his contacts at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where he underwent the Packer kidney transplant, to help Mr Hare with expert medical treatment for one of his children, who had a life-threatening condition.
Mr Hare, whose children attend exclusive Sydney north shore schools, was refused bail and remanded to appear on 16 June.
It is claimed he first contacted Mr Ross in June 2003, telling him he had bought some gold options worth $100,000. He allegedly told Mr Ross he had sold a property in Melbourne, but the funds were not available.
As a result, he offered Mr Ross an interest of half of the gold options for $50,000. Mr Ross accepted the offer and in August of that year he received $60,500 in return for his initial investment of $50,000. Police allege the $60,500 was in fact defrauded from another victim and friend of Mr Hare's, QANTAS pilot Stephen Armbrister.
It is alleged that over a number of months Mr Hare continued to take large investments from Mr Ross, telling him that Ord Minnett brokers had offered him options to invest in gold.
It is alleged this pattern continued over many months and, at one point, Mr Ross sold a property at Church Point on Sydney's northern beaches and forwarded a cheque of $549,722 to Mr Hare to invest in gold.
Police say the accused deposited it into his personal Westpac bank account.
In early 2004, Mr Ross suggested to Mr Hare that they set up a company to keep relevant paperwork, as Mr Ross believed they were dealing in millions of dollars. It is alleged Mr Hare set up a company bank account in the Sydney north shore suburb of Northbridge from their own individual accounts and called the company NRGH Nominees - named after the men's initials.
Police allege that Mr Ross forwarded two cheques of $250,000 each from his superannuation fund, made payable to NRGH Nominees, with a view to investing in shares.
Police allege no shares were bought and Mr Hare later transferred both cheques for his own personal use.
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