Sunday, May 18, 2008

How a con man hit Jeff for $500,000, by Heath Gilmore - The Sun-Herald - 18th May 2008

Comeback boxer Jeff Fenech says he has forgiven the man who hit him with a near knockout financial blow.

Fenech, training to take on arch rival Azumah Nelson in Melbourne next month, spoke out about the Cronulla property developer Robert Bassili, who pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonesty and deceit in Sydney District Court last week.

Bassili, the former director of Radisson Maine Property Group and former chief executive of RAN Holdings International, sponsored the Wests Tigers rugby league team to spruik a wild property scam through Sydney's sporting and social networks.

Investigators estimated 30 investors lost about $3.7 million on the scam.

Fenech was reported to have lost $500,000 in official findings of the administrator appointed to the collapsed property group.

Rugby league players Ben Galea, Joel Caine and John Skandalis also lost tens of thousands of dollars in the scam, which marketed house-and-land packages in regional Victoria.

So did Olympic swimmer Jim Piper.

Yesterday the man fight fans know as the Marrickville Mauler said that his losses had been much greater. Fenech, 44, said his finances were now sound but he had been hurt.

"I have heard from jail contacts that he [Bassili] is remorseful and wants to pay the money back. As far as I am concerned, he could only do that by robbing someone else," he said. "He took from me much more than the $500,000 reported ... I forgive him, but he has hurt a lot of people."

Bassili, who once claimed to be the head of a global empire of aviation, shipping and property interests, is now a forlorn figure in jail. He once drove a fleet of Ferraris, leased a private plane and had a mock Tudor mansion in Cronulla. Bassili sponsored horse races, fights staged by Fenech and the Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation.

At the annual Pink Ribbon Ball in 2003, he donated $50 for every try the Tigers made in the 2003 season - $22,500. But Radisson Maine was built on hot air. Bassili fled to Ukraine after the group collapsed in 2004.

The Ferrari was repossessed, the Cronulla mansion taken over, and all that was left were two Sydney properties - worth perhaps $400,000 once a mortgage was repaid - and a "20- to 30-foot-long original oil painting" depicting Wests Tigers rugby league players.

The failed businessman has been in custody since his arrest in London in May last year. He will be sentenced on July 17.

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Jeff Fenech


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