ASIC knew the proceeds from the Alpine Offset insurance scam were in Swiss Bank accounts but they couldn't prove it. Numbered accounts were impenetrable to access. Richo, Rivkin and, Trevor Kennedy were safe. Until an incredible train of events occurred and, as usual, Rivkin handled it woefully.
There were two Swiss banks, Leumi and EBC that held 38.5% of the $53 million insurance payout on the Offset Alpine fire. Richo had regularly withdrawn large sums, distributing that money to odd banks around the world. But something unusual was about to occur that would shatter the boys' plans.
Groups of Swiss accounts are held by a nominee director who remains responsible for the funds. Unless other arrangements are made, this director's permission is required to withdraw funds. The Offset Alpine funds were appointed a Mr Ernst Imfeld who decided, without permission, to invest the money on Forex, make a profit and return the principal, keeping the excess for himself.
Ernst Imfeld was a pudgy, overweight crook, he had already been sacked from Credit Suisse Group for embezzlement of $300 million and was once more in charge of millions of others' money.
That would have been fine except that crooks invariably make crook investments and Rivkin was astonished to see the amount in his account varying wildly. (In one week there was a curious extra million Euros in his account.)
It was obvious someone was shifting funds between accounts, temporarily, to cover losses.
Rivkin phoned the bank and the bank asked Imfeld for an explanation. His explanation to the bank was that he was acting under Rivkin's instructions.
Rivkin of course knew nothing about any trading on his account and immediately phoned Imfeld himself. Imfeld pleaded with him to say that he had his (Rivkin's) authority to trade.
"Why would I do that?" asked Rivkin. "Because", said Imfeld, "If you don't, I will go down and I will fucking take you with me."
Rivkin simply laughed, hung up the phone and caught a plane to Zurich.
Rivkin was seated when executives of the bank hauled Imfeld into the boardroom.
Rivkin then categorically denied he gave any authority to trade his money.
Ernst Imfeld was sacked.
But he had all the bank documents and had been carefully following Rivkin's denials to the Australian authorities that he, Richardson and Kennedy were the owners of the secret accounts
With measured retaliation, Imfeld quickly searched the names of finance journals in Australia. He settled on the "Australian Financial Review".
A week later at 2am the AFR fax machine started spitting out private Swiss bank account details… emails, instructions, account numbers, names and addresses, everything!
Hundreds of documents had tumbled from the fax to the floor by the time staff arrived.
It was all in German but they immediately recognised the name Rene Rivkin and a bank.
Before the translation was complete they knew they were on to something big.
A senior AFR journalist, Andrew Main, (now with The Australian) began to unpick the Offset Alpine insurance scam in all its gory glory. From memory he received a Walkely Award for the story.
Kennedy and Richo were furious with Rivkin for not playing ball with Imfeld. This was not the first time Rivkin had stuffed up. It was the end of a long friendship between him and Kennedy, and Richo wasn't happy at all… he now had to settle with the ATO for almost a million dollars.
ASIC's eight long years of trying to penetrate those Swiss accounts were over. They had all the evidence they needed right there within the pages of the Australian Financial Review. And that evidence discounted everything that Rivkin had told the courts.
Among those said to have benefited from the Offset Alpine alleged arson were Channel Nine's Sam Chisolm, Ray Martin and his wife and Governor-General Bill Hayden. There were many others in the know who didn't take the perilous Swiss option.
No definite cause of the fire has ever been established, mainly because Adler's FAI Insurance Company was in charge of its own investigation into insurance fraud. Adler had purchased 9% of the Company's shares two days before the fire.
Inquiries to the 'Fire Investigation Unit' of the NSW Fire Service reveal they are under instructions not to release any documents concerning the case to the public.
It appears someone important is at risk and that same "someone" is important enough to be able to suppress what should be on the public record.
Rivkin, who had already been convicted of insider trading, had now clearly perjured himself. He never regained his Midas touch.
The rest is ugly history.