The Pickering Post
Friday, 22nd February 2019

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RENE RIVKIN & RICHO... the stuff they didn't tell you

Larry Pickering

Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.


Is it hard for a person to eyeball a TV camera and lie? Not for Graham Richardson it's not. "I happen to know", he bawled when assuring Sky viewers that Julia Gillard had no foreknowledge of Rudd's assassination... and he didn't even blink.

Richo was born into the world of Labor's hoods and hitmen: The Catholic NSW Labor Right.

Rene Rivkin was the financial guru to Labor MPs and he headed the 'Ways and Means Committee' which afforded illicit financial security for many.

But very little happened without prime head-cruncher Graham Richardson, who had his own hand firmly stuck in the cookie jar.

From arson, extortion and tax fraud to Swiss bank accounts, bashings and murders there are no surprises within Labor's notorious inner sanctum, sandwiched between 377 and 383 Sussex Street.

NSW ALP General Secretary Sam Dastyari, plans to relocate as the stench is becoming unbearable but there is no talk of reformation.

A member of the NSW Right, Paul Keating, as PM welshed on close friend Achilles Constantinidis as he offloaded 25% of his insolvent piggery to the Indonesian for millions.

In October of 1993, (amazingly at the very same time as an unknown Julia Gillard was embarking on another illicit venture) Prime Minister Keating was flying home from an international conference and made a brief stop-over in Jakarta.

The official reason given was visiting his friend, President Soeharto.

Keating, with his ever-present political minders and journalists, was booked into the Grand Hyatt. What the Press didn't know was that Keating's mate, Warren Anderson, had also flown into Jakarta that day to negotiate the deal with the Indonesians while Keating nervously stayed on the phone at the Hyatt.

Keating denies this took place. Keating lies.

An Indonesian affiliation with pigs seems anomalous but it netted Keating a tidy $4 million in a tax-avoidance scam that went undisclosed to Parliament.

The Indonesian's code-name for Keating's was "HE" (rumoured to represent "His Excellency").

Richardson's value to the mob was his ability to have either foot in both media and ALP camps. He was a reliable, yet self-serving, conduit between both.

The following info on Rivkin and Richo will make Richo's blood run cold. But forget the writs mate, there is much more than this:

Fia Cumming is now a horse breeder and trainer at a property, Blake's Heaven, just outside Canberra. She was once a librarian, eventually becoming an ambitious junior reporter at News Ltd and bonking Richardson.

                                              For once Richo refuses to talk

Richo went to extreme lengths to keep the affair with Fia secret. Even costs and expenses of the dalliance were diverted through Rene Rivkin's 40-year-old private assistant, Catherine Saunders-Watson.

Catherine became an expert in fine arts and often attended auctions to secure bargains on Rivkin's behalf. It is unknown that Rivkin was actually a Philistine when it came to fine art.

Fia Cumming was no model type but her ambition excused any qualms she had about bonking an unattractive slob like Richo.

When he was Sports Minister, Richo attended the Seoul Olympics as Australian Government representative. Mrs Richo did not attend, instead he had Rivkin's assistant Catherine arrange tickets and air fares for Fia.

Rivkin's office was used by Labor heavies for everything from hookers to love boats and Richo's rendezvous in Korea with Fia.

Later Richo arranged for Fia to have private interviews with the pillars of Sussex street, Bob Carr, Laurie Brereton, Paul Keating, Leo McLeay and of course Richo himself.

The interviews resulted in a book: "Mates, Five Champions of the Labor Right" by Fia Cumming. This gave Fia the profile she yearned. But she never reached permanent status within the mob.

Everyone wanted to know Rene Rivkin and Catherine often had Labor Ministers lining up in her office waiting to see him. Both Keating's and Hawke's share portfolios were handled by Rivkin and he aggressively courted media clientele.

Kerry Packer had sent his 21-year-old son Jamie over to Rivkin's office for lessons in handling money but Jamie finished up handling Catherine instead.

Rivkin was fixated with the tryst and he revelled in the gossip and innuendo.

Anyway, Rivkin and Richo were the perfect duo. Their mateship was mutually beneficial, although Rivkin didn't have the regular testosterone flushes of Richo.

He was a Jewish atheist and not homosexual as was generally thought.

Rivkin was the perfect monetary mentor for Richo and, as Minister for the Arts, he handed Rivkin a prestigious appointment to the board of the National Gallery of Australia.

Richo also provided Rivkin entree to the politically powerful and in return Richo had acquired an introduction to the dark side of share trading. But all wasn't as it seemed.

Rivkin, with his dodgy Rivkin Report, continued to elude the clutches of authorities. Financial advice can only be given by persons holding an AFS Licence. Newspapers were legally outside that licensing condition and seen as impartial commentators.

The Rivkin Report was, for all intents and purposes, a legal newspaper but its role was a sinister one and far from impartial.

Rivkin would buy shares via other entities and then promote those shares as "hot" to his subscribers. Of course, the shares' value would dramatically rise due to demand, and to the delight of his subscribers.

The trouble came when Rivkin's advice was to sell.

His subscribers were then invariably faced with a loss because Rivkin had already dumped his own shares through the other entities at their peak.

Traders and authorities knew what Rivkin was up to but they could never nail him.

Rivkin's successes led to an arrogance that contributed to his eventual downfall. He placed a half page advertisement in the Daily Telegraph for the Rivkin Report stating that the head of ASIC at the time, David Knott, was one of his subscribers from Nowra and had endorsed his report.

A stupid thing to do and it led Knott to come after him with a renewed vengeance.

Richo and other "notables" including Kerry's offsider Trevor Kennedy and Ray Martin were involved in the Offset Alpine scam.

Kerry owned the printing company but wanted nothing to do with the proposed scam.

It was simple really, suddenly the Rivkin Report was spruiking a printing plant he had invested in as "...a great buy and drastically undervalued."

Rivkin outlayed a mere $3 million in borrowed funds for the shares. But this investment had another dimension.

Rivkin insured the plant for $53 million through his friend Rodney Adler's underwritten FAI. You see, Adler was also in on the deal.

Then one foggy Xmas eve the printing plant burnt down.

Accusations abounded but no-one was found guilty, including Richo, who authorities fortuitously discovered his share of the scam, $3.4 million, was socked away in an anonymous Swiss bank account.

All had made a killing and were apparently untouchable, although Richo had to resign from Parliament and eventually settle with Rivkin's "fiscal fiend", the ATO, for an undisclosed sum.

Rivkin bought two nightclubs, one in Double Bay and one at Star City. He then forged relationships with bikies for personal protection... some angry people had sustained serious losses due to the Rivkin Report.

In 2001 the paths of Rivkin and Kings Cross boss John Ibrahim crossed when the latter seized control of Rivkin's nightclub, Embassy, at Double Bay.

The bikies had held a small shareholding in the clubs and they went to the Embassy Club in Double Bay and shot the place up, demanding full ownership.

Rivkin brought in negotiators but he eventually capitulated.

Then followed the murder of Caroline Byrne (above) who it was reported knew too much. She was the girlfriend of Rivkin's driver, Gordon Wood, who was found guilty of pushing her over The Gap.

                                                      The Beirut connection

There were notable court appearances for the defence, including Graham Richardson, but regardless the jury convicted Wood of Caroline's murder.

He served 31/2 years before being, many believe, unconvincingly acquitted

                                      Wherever his picture was, Richo followed

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.

                                           Richo and Rivkim share a drink

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. Richo wasn't happy at all... he now had to settle with the ATO for almost two 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. So he wasn't about to discover it was arson.

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.

Eventually Rivkin received a jail sentence for insider trading of some Qantas shares. That sentence was to physically and mentally break an already fragile Rivkin.

You see, Rene Rivkin wasn't who they thought he was. He adored his devoted wife, Gayle and many children who didn't know his "immense" wealth was only illusory.

                                                       Rivkin was broke

Rivkin was millions in debt, all his assets were encumbered to willing banks. He owned almost nothing of his $10 million home, and art collection but as always, he had a plan.

He divorced his wife in a business arrangement, transferring all his "assets" to her. He alone remained responsible for the debts. He then went to live with his mother in her apartment in Rushcutter's Bay.

Contrary to what was reported, his mother found him with a plastic bag around his head filled with vomit.

That's what really happened to the sad figure of Rene Rivkin.

It's true, ask his mate, Richo.

Now I know you wouldn't lie, would you Richo?