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Criminal past … Taiwanese businessman Shih Chia-chin had built up a fortune worth tens of millions of US dollars through illegal gambling online. This was the second known attempt to kidnap the millionaire. 

Taipei: A Taiwan businessman who reportedly accumulated a fortune worth tens of millions of US dollars through illegal gambling has been murdered by kidnappers including his chauffeur in a case that rocked the island.

Shih Chia-chin was picked up by chauffeur Hsieh Yuan-hsin upon his return to the northern airport of Taoyuan on August 18.

Three hours later the accountant of Shih’s company received a phone call from kidnappers demanding a ransom of $Tw50 million ($1.84 million).

body of Shih Chia-chin was discovered in a ditch in a remote area of the southern city of Tainan image

The body of Shih Chia-chin was discovered in a ditch in a remote area of the southern city of Tainan. 

After negotiating with the kidnappers, Shih’s family wired $Tw30 million ($1.07 million) to three designated bank accounts and alerted police, according to a statement from police in the central city of Taichung.

It said Hsieh tried to withdraw the ransom but gave up and fled after he was asked by a bank clerk to show his ID.

Prosecutors issued a warrant barring Hsieh from leaving Taiwan. But about four hours later the suspect managed to board a flight for Thailand with a fake passport, police said.

Shih’s body was found on Sunday evening in a ditch in a remote area of the southern city of Tainan.

Police said at least two other people were involved in the kidnap

Citing police sources, the United Daily News said it was suspected there could have been a mastermind behind Hsieh, who has no criminal record.

It said the ransom might not have been the main purpose of the abduction.

Local media said Shih had kept a low profile since he survived a kidnapping attempt four years ago.

Shih was sentenced to an 18-month suspended prison term after his internet gambling ring was cracked nine years ago, the News said, adding that he had built up a fortune worth billions of Taiwan dollars.





Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


A convicted fraudster who served jail time  was the mastermind behind an elaborate gambling scam which authorities say netted him between $6 million and $10 million.

Forged documents purported to be from the International Monetary Fund were part of the elaborate betting scam, a Gold Coast court has been told.

A magistrate today refused bail to Alan Ernest Davenport, 57, from the Gold Coast, who is facing five charges of intent to defraud, four of uttering false documents and one charge of dishonestly obtaining $200,000.

Prosecutor Rosanna Doolan told the Southport Magistrates Court that Davenport was the principal behind a sports arbitrage betting scheme which netted between $6 million and $10 million.

The scheme involved an invitation to put bets on all possible outcomes so a profit was made.

Between 600 and 700 people lost amounts between $10,000 and $400,000, police will allege.

“He used telemarketers to ring all around Australia and convince people to give money,” Ms Doolan said.

Clients were told the money was being bet on sports events all around the world.

“There is no evidence of betting ever taking place,” she said.

Clients were shown forged bank documents, including some purporting to be from the International Monetary Fund in Washington, the court heard.

“Essentially the entire process was a scam, a fraud of the highest, most deceptive nature,” the prosecutor said.

The court was told Davenport had previously served a jail sentence for two counts of fraud in Western Australia.

The latest behaviour showed “a repetitive, blatant and grossly dishonest disregard for the law”, Ms Doolan said.

The court was told Davenport had no income and no financial or family ties to keep him in Australia and might abscond if granted bail.

He also showed a capacity to interfere with witnesses and was at risk of being harmed by victims of the alleged scam.

“There is serious risk of retribution,” the prosecutor said.

Defence solicitor Grant Spedding said his client had been in Australia for 36 years and had shown no inclination to abscond even though he knew an 11-month police investigation could lead to him being charged.

Three co-accused will appear in court this afternoon.


How a Vegas boy bet the house

and lost it all

April 25, 2011 – 7:10AM
Daniel Tzvetkoff, right, with former business partner Sam Sciacca, left. The pair fell out, culminating in a $100m lawsuit.Daniel Tzvetkoff, right, with former business partner Sam Sciacca, left. The pair fell out, culminating in a $100m lawsuit. Photo: Glen Hunt

At 25, Brisbane IT whiz-kid Daniel Tzvetkoff was on top of the world, splashing millions on homes, cars and a luxury bar. Now he is bankrupt and in witness protection, accused of fraud on a massive scale. Cosima Marriner examines his epic rise and fall.

DANIEL TZVETKOFF couldn’t have wished for anything more on the night of his 25th birthday in the spring of 2008.

There was the Brisbane internet millionaire, channelling ’80s TV show Miami Vice in a white suit and black T-shirt, swigging his favourite Cristal champagne with celebrities at the opening of his very own $3 million luxury lounge bar, Zuri.

It was just the latest present one of the country’s richest young guns had lavished upon himself that year.

The Zuri Bar in Queensland, bought by Tzvetkoff at the height of his success.The Zuri Bar in Queensland, bought by Tzvetkoff at the height of his success.

Having amassed an $80 million fortune through his online payment processing company Intabill, Tzvetkoff had bought a $28 million-dollar waterfront mansion on the Gold Coast, dropped $7.5 million on a brand new super-yacht, Maximus, and had a garage bulging with sports cars including his prized black Lamborghini Gallardo with the numberplate “BALLER”.

It was the IT whiz-kid’s idea of heaven. “He just loved spending,” says a one-time close friend of Tzvetkoff’s, who wishes to remain anonymous. “Throwing the cash around, the best things in life. Champagne, parties – he loved parties.”

But the party is now well and truly over for Tzvetkoff.

Tzvetkoff's former house at Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast.Tzvetkoff’s former house at Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast.

Bankrupt and living in FBI witness protection in New York with his fiancee and two small children, he’s accused of committing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of fraud on both sides of the Pacific. To save his skin he’s ratted on his former Las Vegas business partners in an audacious move that could bring down the world’s biggest online poker sites.

Those who know Tzvetkoff say his epic rise and fall is a cautionary tale for Generation Y, for whom many believe everything comes too easily and consequences don’t seem to matter.

“He was a kid caught up in the money,” his former friend says. “He’s slightly delusional. He doesn’t accept he’s done anything wrong. He just thinks he can get away with it. He just puts on a smirk and a smile and doesn’t think about the consequences it has on other people.”

Daniel Tzvetkoff with ex business partner Sam Sciacca at the opening of Zuri nightclub in Brisbane in October 2008.Daniel Tzvetkoff with ex business partner Sam Sciacca at the opening of Zuri nightclub in Brisbane in October 2008.

Tzvetkoff may have the IQ of a genius, but former associates contend his emotional maturity is more that of a child. Like a kid let loose in a lolly shop, it seems he couldn’t help himself from taking more than his fair share.

“I don’t think his personal maturity matched his intellectual maturity,” says one Brisbane acquaintance. “He could have channelled his wits into an honest living [but] he got greedy. He saw others making a fortune and he helped himself on the way through.”

THE grandson of refugees from Bulgaria who arrived in Australia in the 1940s, Daniel Kim Tzvetkoff was born in Ipswich in October 1983 to Kim and Julie Tzvetkoff. He and his sister grew up in the middle-class neighbourhood of Camp Hill on Brisbane’s south side and attended the nearby Catholic boys school Villanova College.

By his own account Tzvetkoff was an unremarkable student, only interested in art and computers. Former classmates have described him as a pleasant, quiet boy who was picked on – the fate of many a nerd.

But what Tzvetkoff lacked in social cachet he made up for with IT smarts. He has told how starting his own web design business at the age of 13 led to him animating cartoons for The New York Times website just three years later. By the time he left school in 2000 he’d developed software for processing online payments securely.

Not only was Tzvetkoff’s invention technically ingenious, it was brilliantly timed: financial transactions on the web were taking off as the internet reached critical mass worldwide. “He just doesn’t think like normal people do,” says a former business associate who remains in awe of Tzvetkoff’s IT abilities. “He almost talks in riddles and you almost have to decipher [them] to work out what he means.”

The baby-faced geek needed someone with business acumen and gravitas to sell his killer app. So in 2004 Tzvetkoff teamed up with lawyer Sam Sciacca, a cousin of former federal Labor MP Con Sciacca, to do the deals. Despite the 12-year age difference, the two became fast friends, and the combination of their skills turned Intabill into one of the biggest online billing companies in the world.

When Tzvetkoff turned up on the BRW Young Rich List in 2008, he said Intabill’s business had grown “10 to 20 per cent” every month since its inception. Five thousand clients in 70 countries – many of them online gambling operators – were using the company’s technology to take payments from customers.

As the money rolled in, so did the baubles. Along with the sports cars and prestige property, Tzvetkoff loaded up on Louis Vuitton gear (his favourite brand) and bought a V8 super car racing team.

The former recluse who had few friends outside work would hold court at Zuri (Swahili for beautiful) in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Lounging among iron gates sourced from Argentinian banks, crystal chandeliers and fabrics reportedly formerly used at the Palace of Versailles, he burnt through wads of cash entertaining international music stars such as Chris Brown and Snoop Dogg.

Yet Tzvetkoff wanted more. Soon he was spending most of his time in Las Vegas, where the spending and partying continued as he set up payment processing systems for internet gambling companies.

BUT Tzvetkoff couldn’t make his millions last until his 26th birthday.

In early 2009 US poker sites Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars started complaining they were owed money, even though Intabill’s books showed all accounts were up to date. Full Tilt Poker took Intabill to court, claiming it had stolen tens of millions of dollars. Sciacca brought in a forensic auditor who discovered that in six months Tzvetkoff had allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars of company funds to pay for his Las Vegas lifestyle.

Money owing to business partners was being frittered away on yet more luxuries, such as a new Lamborghini, an $80,000 advanced driving course and a $70,000 golf membership. It is alleged that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

In July 2009 Intabill collapsed with not one cent left in the bank — although liquidators KordaMentha found nearly $50 million had mysteriously been transferred to Tzvetkoff’s personal bank accounts as “loans”. Now Sciacca turned on his business partner and friend, suing him for $100 million, alleging he had inflated company profits and falsified accounts.

By January last year Tzvetkoff was officially bankrupt: all the toys were gone and he was living back at his parents’ Camp Hill home. Yet he was in much deeper trouble overseas.

Furious at having been done out of millions by a pipsqueak, Tzvetkoff’s US associates reported him to authorities for online money laundering. They said the tech guru had set up a complex chain of fake websites and international bank accounts to cover the fact that Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker were making money from online gamblers in the US, which is illegal.

“He effectively was a firewall between the gambling authorities and the people making the rackets,” a Brisbane lawyer explains. “But he also did a bit of skimming and they didn’t want to lose their money.”

So when Tzvetkoff was brazen enough to show up at a Las Vegas internet billings conference in April last year, he was quickly arrested and charged with masterminding a $540 million racket over two years.

A few months in US custody and the prospect of a 75-year prison sentence was enough to convince him to turn informant.

“It’s better to be a wanted man in a safe house than a condemned man in a federal penitentiary,” the Brisbane lawyer says.

Thanks to Tzvetkoff’s insider knowledge, the FBI is now rounding up and arresting the 11 men who run the world’s biggest online poker websites. But while Tzvetkoff may have got out of jail, he has lost his freedom, probably for life.

His parents refuse to speak publicly about their son. It is understood that they are distraught about the lies they think have been written about him, particularly on internet blogs, especially when he is not in a position to defend himself.

It’s unlikely Tzvetkoff will ever set foot on Australian soil again. Local authorities will be after him for fraud, creditors will be clamouring for their lost $150 million and Sciacca will be chasing him for $100 million.

Says one former associate: “He’s finished.”

FBI charges

11 internet poker kingpins

April 16, 2011
Daniel Tzvetkoff has become a prized FBI informant in a bid to avoid a 75 year jail sentence.
Daniel Tzvetkoff has become a prized FBI informant in a bid to avoid a 75 year jail sentence. Photo: Glen Hunt

Australian internet whiz Daniel Tzvetkoff, who has become a prized FBI informant in a bid to avoid a 75 year jail sentence in the US, may have brought down the multi-billion dollar American online poker industry.

The FBI announced on Friday it had charged 11 people, including the founders of three of the largest internet poker companies in the US, with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offences.

The three poker sites – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – have been shut down. 

It is believed Gold Coast entrepreneur Tzvetkoff’s decision to turn super-grass and reveal to authorities the secret schemes used by poker companies to illegally launder billions of dollars via phony bank accounts and shell companies helped the FBI and New York prosecutors build their case.

“These defendants, knowing full well that their business with US customers and US banks was illegal, tried to stack the deck,” FBI assistant director Janice Fedarcyk, in announcing Friday’s charges, said.

“They lied to banks about the true nature of their business.”

The internet gambling kingpins, including Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars, Raymond Bitar and Nelson Burtnick of Full Tilt Poker and Scott Tom and Brent Beckley of Absolute Poker, face 30-year sentences in US jails.

A year ago it was 28-year-old one-time Queensland high-flyer Tzvetkoff who faced the long stint in the US federal prison system for money laundering, bank fraud and other charges.

US authorities arrested Tzvetkoff exactly a year ago (April 16) when he visited one of the top casinos on the Las Vegas strip, the Wynn, for a gambling conference.

Tzvetkoff was painted by prosecutors as the brains behind the creation of an illegal system for processing $US500 million in transactions between US gamblers and internet gaming websites. Tzvetkoff allegedly created phony shell companies with names unrelated to gambling to process the transactions.

US federal prosecutors vigorously fought to keep Tzvetkoff in jail, battling and eventually overturning a Las Vegas judge’s decision to grant the Australian bail.

Tzvetkoff was transferred to a New York jail and sat there until June when in a surprise about-face, he was quietly released with his whereabouts unknown.

“He’s turned the corner, seen the light and is co-operating,” former FBI agent Harold Copus, after reviewing the details of the case, told AAP.

It is believed Tzvetkoff and his fiancee, Nicole Crisp, are being held in a safe house.

Mr Copus, head of Atlanta-based private investigative company Copus Security Consultants, said that was normal procedure for a high-value informant.

Prosecutors and Tzvetkoff’s Boston-based lawyer Robert Goldstein have refused to comment on the Tzvetkoff case.

Tzvetkoff’s life in exclusion and period in Las Vegas and New York jails was polar opposite to his flamboyant former life as an internet high-flyer.

Just a few years ago Tzvetkoff, who created Brisbane-based internet payment processing company Intabill, had an estimated personal worth of $A82 million, bought a $A27 million home on the Gold Coast, drove Lamborghinis and Ferraris and sponsored a professional motor racing team.

Prosecutors during last year’s bail hearing in Las Vegas suggested Tzvetkoff may have a secret stash of $US100 million in money netted from illegal dealings.


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