The major focus of attention since the collapse of magic-fuel-pill company Firepower, with which I had such fun, has been the scam artist in charge, one Tim Johnston. Tim's lavish lifestyle was as unsustainable as the rest of the Firepower debacle, so he dragged his carpet-bag full of cash off into the night some time ago.
Now, another Firepower collaborator has bobbed to the surface of the treatment pond. His name is John Finnin.
John Finnin was the guy who gave Austrade grants to Firepower. Then, as is traditional among the parasitic worms who've burrowed their way through the vital organs of the world economy for so many years, Finnin became Firepower's CEO on a $AU500,000-a-year salary, while still greasing the wheels for taxpayers' money to flow from Austrade to Firepower.
(Well, I think he greased them. It might actually have been some sort of mucus. Lab tests are ongoing.)
Shortly after golden-parachuting into Firepower, though, Finnin was accused of child sex offences, and quit the CEO job.
Given that modern society seems to be pretty sure that inappropriately touching one small boy is a worse crime than burning down a hundred fully-occupied hospitals, I'm not crazy about the publicity that child-sex accusations always attract. If you baselessly accuse someone of having interfered with children, then even if they're found as Not Guilty as anybody ever has been, the smell of the accusation will follow them around until they die.
But wouldn't you know it - Finnin's been found guilty of a total of 23 charges, which include repeatedly molesting a 15-year-old-boy. His lawyer has courageously asserted that there's an "element of entrapment" to the case, since the boy concerned was - he says - perfectly happy with prostituting himself. That's not what entrapment means, of course, but I'm sure the court will give this argument all the consideration it deserves.
This prosecution all kicked off after some different child-sex claims, which were allegedly what caused Austrade to allow Finnin to "resign quietly and return home", and thereby stop - again, allegedly - using Australian embassy privileges to help him participate in an international child-sex ring. Austrade are adamant that they didn't actually tip Finnin off about the investigation, and that their previous internal investigation of Finnin's activities did not in fact involve a "child sex ring". Austrade just allowed Finnin to give lots of public money to a man with a previous career of fuel-pill scams who then hired him as CEO of his new fuel-pill scam. So that's all right, then.
There'd been a bit of a lull in Firepower-related news before this delectable little detail came along. Gerard Ryle, the Sydney Morning Herald journalist most likely to be depicted on Tim Johnston's dartboard, published an unassumingly-titled...
It's possible that, a mere year and a bit after Tim Johnston skipped the country, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission will actually, finally, file criminal charges against Johnston. Don't hold your breath, though; it's got to take a while to figure out how to bust Johnston without bothering the various governmental worthies who were so proud to be associated with him a couple of years ago.
(There's been a civil case against whatever-remains-of-Firepower crawling along for more than a year now. ASIC has also awarded an eight-year ban to one of the several financial planners who told their clients Firepower shares were a great investment, when the shares weren't actually even legal to sell. The investors who ended up holding Firepower's toilet-paper shares continue, hopelessly, to try to get their money back.)
You can expect official regulatory bodies to take this long to dot all the i's and cross all the t's, and taking a while to do so certainly doesn't mean such bodies are useless. But it does serve as a reminder that you shouldn't expect the government to prevent rip-offs from being perpetrated, even large-scale and immensely audacious ones. Indeed, the bigger a scam is, the more likely it is to have some government officials actively helping it, either knowingly - as, I presume, was the case with Finnin - or as gullible marks - which I suppose the fresh-faced Stephen Moss might have been. (I bet Stephen's dad knew what was going on, though; Stephen claims he ended up being owed money by the vanished Mr Johnston, but his father cleared a 1.6-million-dollar profit when he sold the soon-to-be-bankrupt Sydney Kings to Firepower.)
The State government here in New South Wales has also recently banned four more bogus fuel-saving devices, not including the previously-mentioned Moletech thingy which is I think still technically legal to sell in NSW.
Among the now-banned gadgets are the "FuelMAX" and "Super FuelMAX", which are magnet devices, banned by the US FTC in 2005, but still apparently on sale from some Australian dealers. Then there's the "Magnoflow", another magnet, which the manufacturers say breaks down "fuel clusters" to allow more complete combustion, for a claimed "20% or more" mileage improvement. Which is of course BS, because modern engines burn 98% or more of their fuel already. The Magnoflow people seem to have given up on Australia, which is a terrible shame, since this gadget's US list price appears to be $US159 or more, but it was only $AU129 here in Australia.
Also now-banned-in-NSW is the "Prozone Fuelsaver" - which allegedly gives lucky buyers a magnet and a "catalyst"! (Astonishingly enough, the Prozone Fuelsaver never seems to have been tested by the catalyst enthusiasts at "California Environmental Engineering".)
Four down; only several dozen more to go.
In Australia alone.