Offset Alpine fire
The Offset Alpine fire was a 1993 fire that destroyed a Sydney printing plant owned by the company Offset Alpine Printing Ltd. Investigations of the incident by the police and by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission spanned over ten years, amid suspicions that the printing plant was burnt down as part of an insurance fraud. It also gained attention because of the high profile of individuals involved.
In 1992 a company controlled by businessman Rene Rivkin bought the Offset Alpine printing firm from media magnate and Australia's then richest man Kerry Packer for A$15.3 million. The company was subsequently floated on the Australian Stock Exchange. On Christmas Eve, 1993, the firm's sole asset, the printing plant, was destroyed by fire. It had been insured at replacement value (A$53.2 million), more than three times its purchase price, and the share price skyrocketed. The fire was blamed on a staff barbecue, but suspicions of arson have persisted.
Known investors included:
- Rene Rivkin, a Sydney stockbroker and entrepreneur
- Graham Richardson, a former Labor Senator and associate of Kerry Packer
- Eddie Obeid, a Labor politician
- Trevor Kennedy, a businessman and former Packer executive
- Rodney Adler, an entrepreneur
- Sean Howard, a businessman and one of the founders of internet company OzEmail
- Bill Hayden, a former Labor leader and Governor-General of Australia
- Ray Martin, a television personality who appeared on the Packers' Nine Network
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) commenced an investigation into the ownership of a 38% stake in the company via secret Swiss bank accounts. Rivkin denied any knowledge of the ownership of the stake at the time, but in 2003 ASIC discovered that he himself, in partnership with Richardson and Kennedy, had been using Swiss bank accounts to trade in Offset Alpine and other companies. Rivkin committed suicide in 2005, before the investigation was completed, after being jailed on an unrelated insider trading matter. In January 2006 after a two year legal battle, ASIC gained access to the relevant Swiss banking records. In September 2006 it was revealed that Richardson had almost $1.5 million in Swiss accounts which he had failed to declare to the Australian Tax Office.
In 2010 ASIC discontinued its investigation.
- Hardaker, David (16 March 2004). "Questions raised over investigation of Offset Alpine fire". PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- Verrender, Ian (3 May 2005). "Pity the poor man". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 August 2007.
- Steketee, Mike; Higgins, Ean (31 October 2003). "Tax hunt on Swiss millions". The Australian. Retrieved 15 August 2007.
- "ASIC discontinues investigation into certain allegations in relation to Offset Alpine". Media centre (Press release). Australian Securities and Investment Commission. 30 May 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2014.