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Thursday, 10 February 2011
Page: 553

Senator MASON (5:51 PM) —Tonight I want to tell a story to the Senate. It is not a happy story. It is an embarrassing story, but it is an instructive story. Most of all, it is a cautionary tale that must be told. In early 2008 my neighbour, a Mr Patrick Shaun Wilson—a New Zealand citizen—approached me and others to invest in an unlisted company called NewZeal Corporation, registered in New Zealand. The company proposed to market a complementary medicine to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD. Given the possible side effects of current treatments, the project seemed a worthwhile one. To encourage investment, Mr Wilson was keen to assure me that the board of directors included eminent people such as Sir Roger Douglas, a former New Zealand finance minister, who was to be chairman of the board, and Mr Tom O’Brien AM, a former managing partner of Ernst and Young accountants, as well as Ms Frances Wilson-Fitzgerald, Patrick Wilson’s sister and owner of Mollies, a boutique hotel in Auckland.

Following an offer from Mr Wilson and encouraged by the make-up of the board of directors, in early 2008 I agreed to become a director. I also purchased a significant number of shares in the company. So far, so good. Over the subsequent months Mr Wilson made many promises and gave many assurances. Any problems that were raised or issues that emerged were explained away. As some of these issues were never resolved, the majority of directors, myself included, resigned in late 2009 and early 2010. Even so, Mr Wilson continued to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Little did we know that Mr Wilson did not deserve the benefit of the doubt. You see, Mr Wilson was not who he held himself out to be: an honest—if freewheeling—entrepreneur. No. Patrick Shaun Wilson is a con man, pure and simple. Mr Wilson’s mask only started to slip in late 2010, when one of the shareholders managed to dig up a reference to Patrick Shaun Wilson in the Hansard of the Queensland Parliament of 10 March 1999. There, the then Minister for Tourism, Sport and Racing, the Honourable Bob Gibbs MLA, describes Patrick Shaun Wilson as being ‘well known to authorities’, having ‘left a trail of liquidated and bankrupted companies behind’. The minister then goes on to describe Mr Wilson as ‘notorious’, ‘unscrupulous’ and a ‘shonk’. Well, Mr Gibbs was right.

But I only wish the activities of Mr Wilson were more readily known. You see, he is a man who moves through life leaving little trace. But a few more details about Mr Wilson have now emerged. Patrick Shaun Wilson started out as a loan shark in Auckland in the 1970s. Later he saw an opportunity in breeding thoroughbred horses. As a 1987 New Zealand television expose on Wilson shows, Wilson conned the Board of Directors of the Strathmore Group, including Sir Russell Pettigrew. He ran the company into the ground, billing it for siring rights of horses he owned at rates vastly above the market price, heavily favouring his stallions and in some cases using rights legitimately belonging to the company for personal gain. With the Strathmore Group in a state of collapse, Wilson attempted to sell horses as assets of that company, which lawyers later discovered ‘had never existed; were not, at that time, owned by that company; and to his knowledge were dead at the time of the agreement’.

After Wilson was exposed in New Zealand he fled to the United States, where in 1990 he had a civil judgment of US$103,248 awarded against him in Kentucky for unpaid agistment of thoroughbreds. Having already burned his bridges in New Zealand and the United States, he decided to seek new opportunities in Queensland. One of them was in the area of ADHD and complementary medicine, and he decided to commence the scam—or, as con men term it, ‘the sting’. History then repeated itself. Once again, the only person to benefit from the company was Patrick Wilson. It was the same modus operandi as with Strathmore Group and the rest: build a web, find a few credible people for the board of directors—one credible director will attract more—and exaggerate your contacts and bona fides within the industry.

More importantly, and far more insidiously, Mr Wilson likes to compromise people—his business associates, fellow directors, employees and even potentially troublesome shareholders. Mr Wilson is not beyond threatening people, having people followed and setting them up. He has employed professionals who have been struck off or have already worked for a shonk and either do not care or cannot complain.

Wilson’s sister, Ms Frances Wilson-Fitzgerald, is a jarring note. She is, ostensibly, a respected businesswoman, a proprietor of a five-star boutique hotel, Mollies, at 6 Tweed Street, St Marys Bay, in Auckland, New Zealand. She is a patron of the Auckland Opera Studio. But she is, in fact, the founder of NewZeal Corporation. Having established the company in 2007, she gave control to her brother Patrick Wilson in January 2008.The registered address of the company is still the address of her hotel: Mollies. Not only did she pass control of NewZeal Corporation to Patrick Wilson but she also agreed to be a director. In fact, she remains a director to this day. What has never been answered by Ms Wilson-Fitzgerald is how she could agree to be a director of a company and hand over the running of that company to her brother, who is a notorious con man well known to New Zealand authorities and a former bankrupt. Ms Wilson-Fitzgerald knows all this, and she would know much more still. Yet she agreed to be part of the scam. She provides her brother with cover and respectability.

It started to become too hot for Mr Wilson, so he put the Brisbane unit he lives in on the market a few weeks ago. You might have guessed it: the unit is owned not by Patrick Wilson but by Ms Wilson-Fitzgerald, and it is currently under contract for just under $2 million. Mr Wilson, the former bankrupt, has little money; no, it is all held by Ms Wilson-Fitzgerald and a family trust. Ms Wilson- Fitzgerald is not only the enabler of the con but also Mr Wilson’s bag lady. What sick synergy drives this disgraceful operation I cannot divine, except to say that sunlight might kill its excesses.

Up until tonight the Wilsons have been able to avoid accountability. Patrick Wilson has lived in different jurisdictions and is involved in various enterprises. He has never, except in 1987 in New Zealand, attracted much media attention. Even with the advent of the internet he has managed to avoid its web. He has flown under the radar. What has contributed to his success as a scammer so far is that he can be very charming and confident. He spins a web of credibility. His emotional intelligence is acute. He has all the attributes of a sociopathic con man. And his sister is an accomplice—his bag lady, the aider and abetter of the scam. Patrick Wilson has conned real estate agents, businessmen, lawyers, shopkeepers, neighbours, retirees and others, ordinary people who have little recourse. And he has left a trail of bad debts around Brisbane. He is a disgrace.

These matters are notoriously difficult and expensive for shareholders and creditors to prosecute. I have instructed my solicitors not to proceed further in this matter. But I understand that regulatory authorities have been contacted. I do not like people coming in to this country and ripping off its people. I will continue to keep an eye on the activities of the Wilsons.