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Fishy business in the heart of Dubbo

Discussion in 'General Discussion Forum' started by kingyfan, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. kingyfan

    kingyfan Member

    +5 /0
    No wonder Dubbo has gone downhill lately mata. 

    Rorque Poisson, general manager of the promoter Grow Dubbo ... unbowed by the inconsistencies revealed in his claimed qualifications.

    An enigmatic South African businessman has big plans for the regional city, writes investigative reporter Nick O'Malley.

    Rorque Poisson is a fast-talking businessman hired to breathe new life into Dubbo, the western city of 40,000 battling the confounding combination of financial crisis, drought and the endless drift of its youth to Sydney, a full six hours drive to the east.

    As the general manager of Grow Dubbo, a company set up by the council to attract new investment, Poisson earns four times the mayor's salary.

    The trouble is, nothing about Poisson's past quite stacks up.

    The South African businessman first appeared in Sydney in the mid-1990s, when with a handshake in the pool at Manly Tennis Club with tennis great John Alexander, Poisson made a deal to help develop "JA" clubs throughout NSW.

    The relationship ended quickly and unhappily. Each says he was the first to pull the plug.

    The rugby league star, Phil Blake, also has bitter memories of business with Poisson. He invested $100,000 in Poisson's software company, USCO, which later failed. "You put pressure on the bloke and he just moves on," Blake says.

    A Mosman travel agent, Frank Morris, says he lost more than $100,000 to the same company, only to prop up the enterprise with personal loans to Poisson.

    These men are just "disgruntled shareholders" of legitimate failed businesses, Poisson says.

    Four other Poisson companies have been deregistered - Racebo, Bactron Holdings, Fav's Marine and Vehicle Repair and Growwin Pty Ltd.

    "They are all start-ups. They never got going. They never operated. If you talk to anybody in start-ups … a bloke I met the other day has over 200," Poisson says.

    Yet another company he was involved in, Telco, was liquidated. Poisson denies this suggests a poor business record.

    Next Poisson moved north and became a Kleenmaid franchisee. In his job application to Grow Dubbo, he boasts of sponsoring the local netball team through the Central Coast Academy of Sport. "This gave me the opportunity to tap into their member databases via their CEO."

    The academy's managing director, Ian Robilliard, recalls things differently. He says Poisson signed on to be a sponsor, made himself available for the media announcement, but never paid the $6000, which the academy eventually extracted from Kleenmaid's head office.

    Poisson denies this. He says he never had the authority to sign sponsorship cheques and was embarrassed that head office had taken so long to pay up. Kleenmaid has since collapsed.

    Poisson later made contact with the Australian beach volleyball gold medallist Natalie Cook. In his Grow Dubbo application, Poisson writes that he became her manager. Ms Cook flatly denies it. Poisson says Cook must "have a short memory".

    There are other inconsistencies in Poisson's application to Grow Dubbo.

    He claims to have been awarded a master of business administration by Midrand University in South Africa in 1995, but the Herald can find no record of such an institution and nor can Higher Education South Africa. Poisson says he was not referring to the Midrand Graduate Institute, which does not offer MBAs.

    Poisson remains unbowed when all this is put to him.

    "It's got nothing to do with anybody else except the board [of Grow Dubbo] and myself. It's my business, it's not your business."

    Would Poisson's failure to prove he did not falsify his qualifications interest the chairman of the board, Bill Kelly?

    "I'm not at all concerned," says Kelly. He says the MBA was not a prerequisite for the job. Nor is he concerned by Poisson's business history, his apparent conflict with Natalie Cook or the litany of inconsistencies in Poisson's report to the council on Grow Dubbo's activities.
    According to this document, lodged in December, Poisson's chief achievement was to attract 80 jobs by helping TrackForce, a job placement firm, establish itself. He backs his claim with a letter by that company's former office manager, Leanne Vernon.

    Vernon told the Herald she was directed to write the letter, she knew it was wrong, she regretted writing it and she was relieved she had quit the company.

    Poisson claims to have been in talks with the warehouse retailing chain Costco about opening in Dubbo. Not true, says a Costco spokeswoman.

    He says he has been in talks with the Aldi supermarket chain about building a distribution centre in Dubbo. An Aldi spokeswoman says the company recently built a depot at Prospect and has no such plans for Dubbo.

    The same story unfolds about claims Poisson made to the council about talks with companies including JB HiFi, Reed Communications and Union Shopper.

    None of this concerns Kelly. "I joined the board in January and he was employed before that," he says.

    "I've been through the minutes of our board meetings from the point where he was employed and there is nothing that indicates to me that anything is untoward." In fact Kelly, who rents a home to Poisson, is so keen to support him that when councillors started asking questions during council meetings, he brought a lawyer into the chamber, and according to one councillor, threatened to sue them.

    The councillor, Tina Reynolds, says Kelly told her she had no right to question any of Grow Dubbo's activities because it was a private company.

    But Grow Dubbo is entirely funded - $300,000 a year - by the council. The city's Mayor, Greg Matthews, a councillor and the council's general manager sit on the board.

    It's with the Mayor that the story takes us to Jim Foo, the conman now serving 6½ years in Singapore for cheating two friends out of $1.3 million.

    Foo came to Australia in 1994. He soon won the confidence of politicians, including the former immigration minister Phillip Ruddock. He turned up in Dubbo selling the dream of a $60 million five-star resort and luxury housing complex and an international airport.

    Grow Dubbo's corporate parent, the Dubbo City Development Corporation, supplied support and cash. It ended in 2003 when Foo disappeared, only to end up in immigration detention.

    According to three reports in the local press, Matthews signed a character reference for Foo's failed appeal to the Migration Review Tribunal - endorsed by 30 other local business personalities - describing Foo as "honest and honourable".

    Matthews denies this but the tribunal's record says "signatories of the petition include the Mayor of Dubbo". Matthews's first term as mayor was from September 2002 to April 2004.

    Clearly, many saw character as less important than the chance that Foo's scheme might work. Some on the sidelines in Dubbo believe Poisson enjoys support for the same reason.

    Matthews says he has not seen enough evidence to damn Poisson. Kelly won't be swayed, either. "We think he is a breath of fresh air in this place, quite frankly." And despite all the awkward questions, Poisson is certain he is doing a heck of job.

    ""We've done a lot of good stuff, we've got a lot of projects on the go, we've managed to get expressions of interest from two major retail organisations in writing."

    Can we see them?

    "No. It's confidential."
  2. ManlyBacker

    ManlyBacker Winging it Staff Member

    +972 /7
    Well done to the Herald for again looking at the litany of self-interested spruikers we seem to be infested with. It is time that ASIC and the ACCC are given some real teeth and manpower and clean this country up.
  3. Canteen Worker

    Canteen Worker Well-Known Member

    +215 /5
    I am surprised that Mata is not all over this one!!!
  4. ManlyBacker

    ManlyBacker Winging it Staff Member

    +972 /7
    CW, it is rather fishy!....  ;D
  5. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
      Tina Reynolds is a good friend of mine and she has taken nothing but bullets for her stance, including a significant loss of business because the guys covering this up have been making sure her business doesn't win on quotes.

    It's a disgusting situation and probably far from over.  I expect the town fathers will come out and shoot the messenger this week.  There is a lot more to this story, I just hope the Herald lawyers allow them to do a follow up story on some of the other stuff going on.
  6. Chip and Chase

    Chip and Chase True Supporter Staff Member Administrator Premium Member 2017 Tipping Competitor

    +8,608 /80
    Does Mr Poisson have a ratio ?

    Two things spring to mind here. Who would trust a South African in the first place and why would you bother wasting a perfectly good "con" on a place like Dubbo ?
  7. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
    Because Dubbo is ripe for the picking on this sort of thing.  The key decision makers have a chip on their shoulder that they're poorly served in relation to Orange and Bathurst so they welcome anyone who might do anything for Dubbo with open arms.

    So these con men get far more oxygen than they should because the minute they spruik any big plan for the city everyone falls over themselves in the rush to get one over Orange.  And anyone in town who uses words like "due diligence" becomes anti-Dubbo.  Hundreds of thousands of rate payer dollars have been spent propping this clown up and even though that story broke on Saturday, today's local paper is bemoaning the "damage" done to Dubbo's image.

    Dubbo is so shambolic I doubt much more damage could be done to it anyway.
  8. Fro

    Fro Well-Known Member

    +302 /0
    dont bring Bathurst into it, we hate Orange more than you do :)
  9. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
      All cities are much of a muchness and between the three of them, if they worked together, could probably offer a reasonable package for investment and tourism.  Instead they all bitch and whine about each other (much like you and me Fro).  ;)
  10. Fro

    Fro Well-Known Member

    +302 /0
    Nah I reckon Dubbo and Bathurst should band together and Nuke Orange, Everything about Orange reeks of arrogance and up yourself wankerism.

    Which is ironic as the place has absolutely nothing going for it.

    At least Dubbo has a Zoo :)

    and I dont bitch and whine about you Matas, it's more a critical pity :)
  11. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
    Orange has been up itself ever since it got a 3 hat restaurant in the SMH Good Food Guide.  Much like you Fro since you found a dictionary.  ;)
  12. Fro

    Fro Well-Known Member

    +302 /0
    Orange has been up itself since 1846.

    Which restaurant Matas? I thought their Soup Kitchen was just average.

    I didn't find a dictionary, it found me :)
  13. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
    The stupid corrupt idiots behind this have been on the hop all week, though I suspect they're still trying to ride out the storm so they can resume normal, corrupt, transmission.

  14. ManlyBacker

    ManlyBacker Winging it Staff Member

    +972 /7
    From that article it has cost Dubbo over 100k (and that is just for Poisson) to fill one empty corner store. Outstanding.

    Go Tina, go Tina.....
  15. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
      They get $300k a year of ratepayer money and Poisson has been on the books for over 18 months.  Diabolical.
  16. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
    It gets better:

    Funding freeze on development body
    Nick O'Malley
    August 1, 2009

    DUBBO’S development organisation, Grow Dubbo, has had its funding halted and its manager, Rorque Poisson, has been given three months’ notice after an investigation by the Herald that revealed questions over his résumé and reports to council.

    Grow Dubbo continues to operate on its cash reserves and Mr Poisson’s contract may resume if the organisation’s funding starts to flow again.

    The Department of Local Government is looking into whether the council properly tendered for Grow Dubbo, which is designed to attract new investment to the town of 30,000.

    At a board meeting on Thursday night the mayor, Greg Matthews, and the chairman of Grow Dubbo, Bill Kelly, revealed they had shares in a company called Alkane Resources, of which Grow Dubbo has acted on behalf. Alkane’s NSW general manager, Mike Sutherland, is also on the Grow Dubbo board. A third board member, Ben Shields, resigned yesterday, citing his frustration at the board’s apparent lack of transparency and conflicts.

    Mr Kelly vehemently denied he owned Alkane shares when questioned by the Herald last week. Several former business associates who claim to have lost money to Mr Poisson say they only became involved with him because of references by former Nationals leader Ian Armstrong.

    Mr Armstrong, who was once involved in two Mr Poisson’s companies, Bactron Holdings and Usco, denied that he had ever vouched for Mr Poisson.

    ‘‘I’ve got no time for Mr Poisson. He cost me a lot of money and I do not want to get involved again,’’ he said yesterday.

    This week Mr Poisson told Dubbo radio that he was so passionate about the region he would continue to work for free, but Grow Dubbo’s board has already resolved to pay him out to the tune of $100,000.

    Last week the Herald revealed that Mr Poisson was unable to provide evidence of the MBA he said he gained in South Africa.

    Further, it was revealed a string of former business partners, including the footballer Phil Blake and tennis great John Alexander had unhappily ended their association with Mr Poisson, with several claiming to have lost money.

    Beach volleyball Olympic gold medallist Natalie Cook told the Herald that Mr Poisson had never managed her, as he claimed in his résumé. A series of companies Mr Poisson told council he was in talks with about investment in Dubbo said his claims were incorrect. Mr Poisson says he has written proof of all his claims, but cannot reveal it due to confidentiality agreements.

    Mr Poisson has also reported he has been in talks with a regional airline to begin a service from Newcastle to Dubbo. Brindabella Airlines confirmed it had been in discussions with Grow Dubbo, but that it had made it clear such a route would never be viable.

    Mr Poisson declined to comment yesterday.
  17. ManlyBacker

    ManlyBacker Winging it Staff Member

    +972 /7
    At least it is being sorted, but at great cost. Is the 100k on top of the money he has already received?
  18. Guest

    Guest Guest

    +0 /0
    More than a few conflicts of interest with the Major and his cronies.  

    Another classic case of someone receiving a healthy payout for being incompetant.  

    Poisson will probably turn up next as a consultant to the NSW government or up in Queensland where coruption still flourishes.  
  19. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
      The mayor is out there defending himself today!  Though admitting to having purchased the shares he says "not that there's anything wrong with that".  staggeringly stupid.

    MB, the $100k is a golden handshake on top of what he has been paid already.  Rate payer funds handed over to a crook.  What the Board should be doing is handing him over to the police and charged with fraud.  A very easy way to save oneself $100k.
  20. ManlyBacker

    ManlyBacker Winging it Staff Member

    +972 /7
    I would have thought falsification of credentials would be enough for instant dismissal. Failure to act on that would mean a failure of director obligations. Maybe a push could result in none of them being allowed to hold board positions for a number of years. Certainly Matthews, as chairman, has additional responsibilities as outlined in cases won by ASIC (One.Tel) and would be in the cross-hairs.

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