Prizemoney Freeze for Billionaire Aussie Racehorse Owner
One of the biggest and wealthiest owners of racing horses in Australia has seen his prizemoney earnings drastically reduced. The man in question is Tony Fung, a renowned businessman and chairman of Aquis group, he is a billionaire and owns the Canberra casino as well as the infamous Pheonix Thoroughbreds based out of Dubai. Fung splashed over $11 million on horses so far in 2021, but following this highly disruptive news he’ll have to re-think a strategy that is more sustainable.
Another dark cloud looming over Fung and his Phoenix Thoroughbreds stable is an investigation being conducted by anti-money laundering agencies. Authorities in New South Wales have unanimously decided that the firm is blacklisted from receiving any reimbursement through prizemoney until investigators have reached a verdict on the complicity of the business. With such damning allegations hanging over the stable, many affiliates are worried a major shake-up in Australian horse racing is on the horizon.
Up until last Wednesday, the parent company of the stable under investigation was vehemently defending its ownership and role in the company’s direction. The miscommunication and interpretation of events on the part of Aquis led them to believe the Australian authorities had not yet taken any action against Phoenix Thoroughbreds. However, they had not been notified of the true events on the ground and continued to justify their partnership with the stable.
It emerged late last week that the sport’s regulatory bodies had taken action against the stable, and have decided to withhold any outstanding prizemoney, as well as reject any transfers of future payments until the issue is resolved. Whilst the deliberations regarding the involvement of the firm in illegal money laundering activity does not prevent the firm from fielding horses in upcoming races, the pressure of these sanctions could now lead to the end of the partnership between Mr. Fung and Phoenix.
Aquis Group has desperately been trying to distance itself from anything that draws them down the road of damaged public relations and is urgently seeking clarification on the allegations being made against one of its business partners. The firm released a statement saying they will continue to act in the best interests of the whole horse racing industry.
Serious Questions Remained Unanswered Regarding Phoenix
Whilst the parent company of Phoenix has vehemently defended its interest in the subsidiary over the past few weeks, serious questions remain unanswered. According to the Aquis, Phoenix remains a legitimate entity that is fully licensed and permitted to compete in horse racing meets across Australia. The state horse racing regulatory bodies in states including New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, there haven’t been any murmurs of impropriety.
In an offhanded backlash against all the lines of questioning being directed towards the group, an Aquis spokesperson told reporters they would be better off asking these questions to the regulatory authorities in the respective states, who apparently do not share the same concern over Phoenix’s right to own and operate racing horses.
Despite the fierce rebuke of the accusations being levied against them, a sense of concern has arisen within the firm. Ultimately, serious questions regarding the origins of Phoneix’s capital remain unanswered. The firm which claims to be an investment fund for racehorses was linked to the 2014-2016 OneCoin Ponzi scheme, a bogus cryptocurrency that was fraudulently sold to investors on a global scale, costing Australians alone an estimated $650 million. According to private investigators over $200 million of the proceeds from that scam was funneled through Phoenix.
More curious is the fact that no one in Australia with federal power appears to be taking any action to investigate these allegations. Law enforcement is seemingly uninterested to escalate this, and even the dedicated anti-money laundering agency, AUSTRAC, hasn’t decided to pursue Phoenix over their shady business dealings.
AUSTRAC Recuses Itself Of Responsibility to Investigate
The anti-money laundering agency in Australia usually stands steadfast and ready to block any businesses it believes are beholden to money launderers from operating within the Australian market. But in the case of Phoenix, they appear to have dropped the ball in a baffling way. According to an AUSTRAC spokeswoman, it is not the direct responsibility of the firm to pursue allegations against breeders and sellers of racehorses, they are only concerned with maintaining the horse racing betting markets.
Even more alarming is the outright refusal of the Australian Federal Police to acknowledge the allegations being made against Phoenix. It does appear from the outside that an active effort is being made to circumvent this scandal and not escalate the claims into a formal investigation. The reasons for this ‘shyness’ are of course, not known.
Whilst Phoenix has taken a considerable effort to prove that it is innocent of any wrongdoing, they haven’t been particularly successful at convincing the international array of governing bodies for the sport. Last year the British and French racing agencies finally took steps to ban the organization from any further interference in the sport. Their position as an official and licensed breeder became untenable considering how many unanswered allegations were stacking up against them.
Despite the prizemoney freeze, the firm has still been entering their horses into races across Australia, where one of them actually would have been eligible for a huge payday had it not been for the ban. Mr. Fung continues to maintain his innocence and is in the middle of a major hotel development project that will cost upwards of $440 million.
In the spirit of nonchalance, Mr. Fung went ahead with the purchase of star racehorse, Not a Single Doubt, for $5 million back in January. The investigation against Phoenix Thoroughbreds continues.