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International ATTM Card Pyramid Selling Scheme

International ATTM Card Was A Pyramid Selling Scheme, Court Orders Aus$4 Million To Be Returned

The Australian Federal Court has found that the International ATTM Card Scheme, which was promoted widely in the North Island by World Netsafe Pty Limited, is an illegal pyramid and referral selling scheme and has ordered that Aus$4 million be returned to people who had bought into the scheme by December 1999.

However, Commerce Commission Chair John Belgrave warned that most of the 4,000 New Zealanders and Australians who bought into the scheme will lose heavily.

The Aus$4 million is less than half of the money paid into the scheme. It is the amount of money that it could be proved in Court that had been received by World Netsafe and Terence Butler who ran the scheme from Brisbane.

About 1,400 New Zealanders paid NZ$3,000 each to buy into the scheme.

The Court has ordered World Netsafe and Mr Butler to return the Aus$4 million by 5 January 2001. New Zealanders should contact the company or Mr Butler directly. If they have difficulty with that, then they should contact the Australian Federal Court in Brisbane.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took court action against World Netsafe and Mr Butler. The Commerce Commission investigated the promotion of the scheme in New Zealand and provided information to support the Australian court action.

Mr Belgrave said that this case shows the importance of co-operation between the Commerce Commission and the ACCC.

"This scheme was based in Australia, the man who ran it lives there, and the money New Zealanders paid in went to Australia," he said. "The scheme has now been closed down preventing further detriment to New Zealanders, and those who bought into it have some scope for getting some of their money back.

"Earlier this year we warned eight North Island business people who were actively promoting the International ATTM Card that, in our view, it was illegal. With the Court having now stopped ATTM, we do not plan to take further action against these, or any other, New Zealanders involved in the scheme."

World Netsafe promised incomes of up to $230,000 a month and promoted the ATTM Card as being associated with international credit card companies and electronic communication networks. However, the cards could not be used to make purchases, phone calls or any other transactions.

Money came into the scheme from people buying cards for NZ$3,000 each from World Netsafe and Mr Butler. These people would then try to recruit more people into the scheme. Each recruit would buy a card from World Netsafe and Mr Butler. The person who had recruited them would receive a proportion of that money. Each recruit would then try to recruit even more people, and so on, creating a pyramid that was impossible to maintain.

Recent pyramid selling court actions:

* In September, the Auckland High Court ordered Tauranga brother and sister, Kerry Lindsay Paul and Coralee Ngaio Judson to pay back more than $3.1 million to people who had bought into their Maximus Intermediaries Limited pyramid selling scheme. However, Maximus owes creditors and the Inland Revenue Department more than $1.3 million, and the 12,000 people who bought into the scheme will probably get nothing back.

* Last month, the Auckland District Court fined an unemployed Auckland man, Terrence Samuel Wall, $8,000 for promoting in New Zealand two overseas-based pyramid selling schemes, "Focus International Credit Card Plan" and "World Net International Inc."

* Last year the Napier District Court fined Lisa Sharon Morton $30,000 and ordered her to pay back $200,000 to people in the Joker 88 and Liberty Group Bonds pyramid selling schemes.

Media contact: Fair Trading Manager Ross McPherson Phone work (04) 498 0909, cellphone 021 627 909, home (04) 232 6004

Senior Advisor Communications Vincent Cholewa Phone work (04) 498 0920, home (04) 477 0039

Commission media releases can be viewed on its web site

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