Zetta Jet set battle over $4.5m luxury yacht
An Australian legal stoush over a $4.5m luxury yacht is at the centre of a worldwide chase for assets connected to Gold Coast businessman Geoffrey Cassidy, who has been accused of defrauding tens of millions from Singaporean private jet hire company Zetta Jet to fund his lavish lifestyle.
American investors in Zetta Jet, where Mr Cassidy was managing director, accuse the Australian of fraud and racketeering in the runup to the group’s collapse in September by using up to $US30m in stolen company money to throw extravagant parties and buy two yachts, houses in Europe and lux- ury cars. One of the yachts, a topof-the-line Maritimo 70 named Dragon Pearl that is outfitted with features including satellite communications equipment designed to work anywhere in the world, is under arrest on the Gold Coast by order of the Federal Court.
The court seized the boat in October on the application of Zetta Jet’s US trustee in bankruptcy, Jonathan D. King.
But this week, Mr King suffered a legal setback in a Melbourne courtroom at the hands of counsel for Du Yan, a mysterious Hong Kong-based woman who claims ownership of the yacht thanks to an opaque transaction involving tax haven the Marshall Islands.
The Federal Court ordered Zetta Jet and Mr King to stump up $145,000 to cover some of Du Yan’s costs in the event she wins ownership of Dragon Pearl at trial, due in March.
This is on top of $85,000 Zetta Jet has so far had to shell out to keep the 21.5m yacht at its mooring.
The Federal Court action is one of four under way around the world as a result of the failure of the company, which chartered out jets complete with everything from fine wines on the table to Egyptian cotton on the beds and boasted its customers included Hollywood royalty and high-rolling gamblers.
In the US, there are bankruptcy proceedings relating to the company and its US subsidiary, plus a fraud action brought by investors James Seagrim and Matthew Walter against Mr Cassidy.
Meanwhile, in Singapore, the city state’s High Court has ordered the trustee in bankruptcy to halt the US proceedings — an order that appears to have been ignored. Instead, the trustee has applied to the Singaporean court for it to recognise the US insolvency.
Mr Cassidy agrees that he used Zetta’s money to buy Dragon Pearl, but has denied doing anything wrong and says any amounts Zetta Jet claims he owes it should be set off against sums the com- pany owes to him. In their fraud case, Mr Seagrim and Mr Walter claim Mr Cassidy “enriched himself” without their knowledge or consent by using $4.5m of Zetta Jet’s money to buy Dragon Pearl and another 3.9m to buy a 37m Couach yacht, Nyota.
This is on top of “at least three luxury cars in Singapore valued conservatively at between $2m and $3m”, the investors claim.
They accuse Mr Cassidy of splashing hundreds of thousands of dollars of company money on “extravagant gatherings” in Monaco, Los Angeles and Macau and taking dozens of illicit free trips on the company’s aircraft with his friends.
The investors also accuse Mr Cassidy of accepting kickbacks of $2m each on the purchase of at least seven Bombardier jets from a person at the manufacturer’s Singaporean distributor, Jetcraft.
The registered owner of the Dragon Pearl is Marshall Islands company Dragon Pearl Limited (DPL), which was in turn owned by Mr Cassidy when he took delivery of the yacht in December 2016.
However, in her defence, filed with the court, Du Yan claims all the shares in DPL were transferred to her on September 28, about six weeks after Mr Cassidy was suspended from his job at Zetta Jet.
Du Yan alleges that at the time of the transaction, Mr Cassidy was “personally indebted” to a company called New Target Investments, but does not say how much he owed.
“In order to discharge that debt, either in full or in part, Cassidy agreed to transfer the shares in DPL to New Target or its nomi- nee,” she claims. “New Target nominated Du Yan to receive the shares in DPL from Cassidy.”
She says Zetta Jet and Mr King have no claim to the yacht because she bought it without knowing anything about Mr Cassidy’s use of company funds to purchase it.
However, she also claims that the $4.5m Mr Cassidy paid for the yacht should be set off against $3.5m allegedly owed to him and a Singaporean company he owned, Asia Aviation Company.
On Wednesday, counsel for Mr King, Anton Trichardt, told the court “there was no loan or anything like that” and said Du Yan’s claim to own the yacht was “spurious”. However, counsel for DPL and Du Yan, Angus Stewart SC, said his client “was in effect Dragon Pearl” and the rightful possessor of the boat.
Zetta Jet’s US trustee has seized the Dragon Pearl