Billionaire falls victim of fraud for US $ 1 million

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John Kahlbetzer, who appears on the Forbes list of the 50 richest Australians, lost money when the fraudsters tricked the manager of his personal finances

The billionaire founder of Twynam Agricultural Group Pty Ltd. lost $ 1 million in email fraud, as was known in a London court on Thursday. The British man who facilitated the theft says that he is also a victim.

John Kahlbetzer, who is on the Forbes list of the 50 richest Australians, lost the money when the fraudsters tricked his personal finance manager into transferring the money, their court documents say.

The scammers sent an email to Christine Campbell posing as the 87-year-old billionaire, and asking her to pay $ 1 million to an account whose owner was a Briton, David Aldridge, and he did. Kahlbetzer is suing Aldridge to recover the money, but Aldridge says it was “used involuntarily” and that he himself was the victim of a fraud involving a woman he met online and with whom he believed to be in a relationship.

Email fraud where corporate employees are tricked into transferring money is becoming a growing problem. The statistics of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States (FBI) show that cases of “email of companies manipulated”, where criminals ask managers of companies to transfer funds, have cost more than US $ 3,000 million since 2015.

That type of scam “continues to grow, evolving and targeting businesses of all sizes,” according to the website of the Internet Crime Reporting Center (IC3) of the FBI.

Aldridge’s lawyer, Nicholas Towers, declined to comment. Kahlbetzer’s lawyers did not immediately respond to an email requesting comments.

John Kahlbetzer on the left. (Photo: Financial Riview / David Everdell)


The lawyers of Kahlbetzer, which has a net worth of US $ 950 million, according to data compiled by Forbes this year, say that Aldridge “actively facilitated the payment of the sum to his account”. He then transferred 61,538 pounds (US $ 82,600) to another of his accounts and used part of that money to pay off his tax bills. And he transferred most of the money to accounts in countries such as the US, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Ghana and Nigeria.

Aldridge said he was sending the money at the request of his girlfriend, Nancy Jones, who told him he was being used to pay inheritance tax on his parents’ inheritance “so that he could jointly benefit from his inheritance and the two could live together, “say Kahlbetzer’s court documents. Kahlbetzer’s lawyers say he never met Jones and that he has not provided any proof of his existence.

Aldridge’s court documents indicate that “he is also a victim of the fraudsters, who have tricked him” into allowing his account to be used to defraud Kahlbetzer. The evidence does not show that he knew he was helping a scammer, they say, and he “had no idea” that he was committing a fraud against Kahlbetzer.

Aldridge had “the right to believe he was dealing with an honest person” because Jones had been his girlfriend for four years, his court documents say. Jones has written poetry to Aldridge “and on many occasions he has told him that he loves him”. Aldridge’s lawyer, Nicholas Towers, said in a court in London on Thursday that he thought that transferring the money was taking measures that would allow them to “be together properly” and “really live happily ever after.”

Like Campbell, Aldridge “followed the instructions of someone he had known for many years and trusted,” his documents say. They say that if the judge determines that he is responsible for US $ 1 million and the legal costs of Kahlbetzer “then he will be even more of a victim” than Kahlbetzer. Kahlbetzer’s documents say that Aldridge “has experience with amorous frauds”, since On another occasion he had paid money to a scammer, who was posing as a Dutch woman named Iris, with whom he had had a drink after meeting her on a dating website.


The message asking Campbell to transfer the funds came from an email address that was a different character from Kahlbetzer’s personal email address, but which had been manipulated to appear on the screen as his exact address. The email was written by “an unknown third party,” say the Kahlbetzer documents.

In testifying as a witness, Campbell said it was “reasonably normal” to receive a request to transfer $ 1 million from Kahlbetzer’s account. She said that, in hindsight, it was clear that the email asking for funds to be transferred was not in “perfect English”, but she had not considered this a problem at that time because it seemed that Kahlbetzer was sending the email in a hurry. .

Aldridge says he transferred 61,538 pounds to his personal bank account in April. That is the “maximum extension” of his benefit, and the most he should pay Kahlbetzer, he said.


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