Village brings civil actions after scam

International network siphons millions from company's U.S. production arm

SYDNEY — Entertainment conglom Village Roadshow is launching civil actions against 12 individuals and companies in the U.S. and Oz to recover stolen funds after fraudsters scammed at least AU$11 million ($5.5 million).

Investigators found that an international network had siphoned millions from the company’s U.S. production arm Village Roadshow Pictures in 1998-99.

Ross Andrew Henry, former chief financial officer, is awaiting sentencing in Los Angeles on April 5 after pleading guilty to two fraud charges involving the transfer of funds before his resignation in December 1999.

Some funds have been recovered but Village Roadshow remains $1.9 million out-of-pocket and is starting the civil suit to chase the missing money, which investigators have tracked to “somewhere between Turks and Caicos and Cyprus.”

Group investor relations manager Andrew Bowden said he was satisfied no existing VR employees were implicated in the fraud.

The loss was accounted for under “provision for legal and employee entitlements” in the financial year to June 30, 2000.

In a bizarre twist, VR is being sued by a businessman alleged to be implicated in the fraud.

Lawrence Ryckman, a banned Canadian financier who operates out of Turks and Caicos, has filed a counter suit in Arizona claiming that Henry was the fraud mastermind and that his company has been deprived of $10 million in lost interest.

Bowden dismissed that threatened legal action as “frivolous and nonsensical.”

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