Another binary options trading website operating in Australia is in the sights of the corporate regulator as part of its ongoing investigation into the alleged activities of the Senese family and their associates.
Last week the Federal Court issued orders restricting convicted finance criminal Tony Senese, his wife Sandy Senese and son Cameron Senese and Israel-based associate Yoav Ida from operating the website Tradettn.com.
The court has already issued orders restricting the group accused of misappropriating millions from Australian investors from operating the TitanTrade website.
The orders came as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission is in the midst of a major investigation into the activities of Belize-based TitanTrade and its operators, Seychelles-registered One Tech Media and Britain’s Ultra Solutions MG (UK).
ASIC is yet to formally make any allegations against the companies or the Senese family or Mr Ida.
The regulator alleges that about $4.16 million ploughed into TitanTrade by its customers, including Australians, has been deposited into the business bank account held in the name of Tony Senese’s business Allianz Metro.
Like TitanTrade, Tradettn.com is operated by One Tech Media and UK-domiciled DOM Technology Services, which is registered to the same address as Ultra Solutions MG. Its sole director is Ukrainian woman Alona Gorbarenko.
Binary options, including those sold by TitanTrade and Tradettn.com, allow traders to “bet” on the price of an “asset” (such as a share in a listed company) or a particular currency or commodity (such as gold) within a certain time. The options mean the traders never have to actually buy or sell the underlying asset, currency or commodity.
Using high-pressure sales tactics, brokers urge customers via phone calls and Skype chat to make bets on “assets”. For example, a customer might bet that in a three-minute timeframe the price of a particular company’s shares will be above 50¢.
If after three minutes the price is 52¢, they are paid out a return. If the price is 49¢, the customer loses their “bet” and the money is kept by the provider.
Last week the Federal Court heard ASIC is working with its Italian counterparts the Guardia di Finanza in the investigation and formal interviews of Mr and Mrs Senese will take place in Italy, where they are on an extended holiday.
“We are waiting from responses from the Italian regulator to set a venue for the examinations to take place,” lawyer for ASIC Michael Pearce, SC, said.
Mr Pearce said part of the hold-up was organising the translation of documents which the Italian regulator requires to proceed with the formal interviews. Cameron Senese has already been subject to formal interviews in Melbourne.
“At the next hearing date we will say whether we need more time instituting a claim against one or more of the existing defendants,” Mr Pearce said.
ASIC has already won orders freezing the assets and bank accounts of Mr Senese, his wife and his son and they are only allowed to spend a court-approved amount each month.
Mr Senese was sentenced to seven years in jail in 2002 after being found guilty of theft and false accounting charges relating to the collapse of financial services firm EC Consolidated Capital, including a $5 million spending spree using investor money.
Mr Senese’s former business partner Tim Gatland, who was involved in a host of allegedly nefarious activities, went missing in Thailand in the mid-1990s and is believed to have been murdered.
Lawyer for the Senese family and Mr Ida, Alan Herskope, told the court that his clients didn’t oppose the orders.
“We deeply dispute the assertion that some or all of our clients are operating websites,” Mr Herskope said.
“Our clients are keen to co-operate. They want this investigation at an end. They don’t want this and oppressive freezing orders hanging over their head indefinitely,” Mr Herskope said.
It is expected the Seneses and Mr Ida will argue they were providing a legitimate payment platform for TitanTrade’s website.
Speaking after the hearing, the Seneses’ solicitor Jonathan Kenny also said there was no material in ASIC’s court filing that showed his clients had anything to do with running the website.