Tech whiz loses luxury boat fight

A Gold Coast tech entrepreneur who thought he was buying a bargain motor yacht for $125,000 from a divorcee has lost his bid to keep it after a judge ruled he turned a "blind eye" to questionable dealings by an allegedly fraudulent boat dealer.

Alexander David William Rich, who owns tech start-up Desygner, must now bear the loss of the alleged fraudulent sale and transfer the official registration of The Shahzadi, a Bavaria motor cruiser, to the original purchaser.

Alex Rich. Picture: Richard Gosling
Alex Rich. Picture: Richard Gosling

The original purchaser was Auswide Constructions Pty Ltd (Auswide), owned by Jerome James Charles Heron and his millionaire family, the court heard.

District Court Judge Ken Barlow made the ruling after the court heard that a boat dealership sold the same boat twice to the two men and was alleged have defrauded one or both of them.

After a two-day hearing in December, Judge Barlow declared Auswide the "true owner" of The Shahzadi after Mr Rich sued Auswide in a bid to have the court declare that he was the owner of the vessel.

Judge Barlow found that Mr Rich should have asked boat dealer Andrew Eustice to show him the complicated "daisy chain of contracts" under which several people had some form of ownership interest in The Shahzadi, but instead "made a conscious decision to avoid making further enquiries" when he bought the boat in July 2018 after he was told it was being sold "fast for a pending divorce case".

Andrew Eustice being taken to the Southport Watchhouse by police. Picture: Jerad Williams
Andrew Eustice being taken to the Southport Watchhouse by police. Picture: Jerad Williams

Judge Barlow found that Mr Rich should have been "on alert that something in this transaction was not quite right" because it was considerably cheaper than its true market value and its ownership was opaque, and that Mr Rich was not acting in good faith in purchasing the vessel.

The alleged fraudulent sale of the boat came to light in August 2018 after Mr Rich reported The Shahzadi stolen to police and his insurer.

He had moored it at the Versace marina at Main Beach when it went missing, and it was found moored it at a private pontoon on the Nerang River owned by John Heron, Jerome Heron's brother.

Mr Rich demanded Auswide return his boat, and Auswide refused to, the court heard.

The Heron family company Auswide had bought the boat a month earlier for $100,000 from licenced second hand boat dealer Benjamin Eustice, son of Andrew Eustice, the court heard.

The subsequent sale of The Shahzadi to Mr Rich occurred when the Heron family believed it was at the Versace marina for post-sale mechanical repairs.

Benjamin Andrew David Eustice.
Benjamin Andrew David Eustice.

After the dispute over its ownership emerged The Shahzadi remained in the possession of Auswide.

Auswide argued that it bought and retained ownership of The Shahzadi and denied selling it to Mr Rich, or authorising Andrew Eustice to sell it to him.

Andrew Eustice is alleged to transferred the ownership of the boat from Jerome Heron to Mr Rich in July 2018 by lodging a form purportedly signed by Mr Heron with the state department of main roads.

Mr Rich has been ordered to give Auswide a ship transfer form authorising the transfer of the registration of the boat to Auswide.

Auswide has agreed to reimburse Mr Rich for the registration fees he has outlaid since 2018.

Originally published as Tech whiz loses luxury boat fight


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