This web page was originally created for the use of ASIC and is not linked to anywhere, and contains links to possible confidential documents, please do not tell anybody else the URL. Copyright issues.
This page has been updated, and still needs updating before releasing to the press.
Background of past Sampi operations.
Summery of the Sampi swindle
This is the sad story of how Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina, via their company's Fishtrade and "21 Pine Freezers road Pty Ltd" and Hollywood style accounting, managed to cheat all the other Sampi shareholders out of their shareholdings.
In short, Peter Laughton was assured that the 2 to 1 voting advantage would never be used by the other directors to give them an undemocratic advantage and would only be used for administrative purposes such as signing of company formality's.
Peter Laughton then made a fatal mistake in trusting Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina, and allowed them both as directors, which gave them 2 votes to his 1 while having exactly the same % ownership of the company [SAMPI].
Since the inception of SAMPI, shareholders meetings have been very few and very far apart, a total of 4 meetings over 5 years, all called for the main purpose of formalising of legal manipulation of reducing Laughtons ownership % of SAMPI.
??? Number of directors meetings since inception of Sampi ????
Check against email 7 May 2012
Peter Laughton requested on several occasions that a shareholders meeting be called, but Fishtrade constantly delayed it.
After several months when it appeared obvious that the SAMPI secretary was avoiding calling a shareholders meeting, Laughton eventually legally forced a shareholders meeting at the Freemantle Chamber of commerce meeting room, with an independent conflict resolution practitioner hired to act as chairperson.
Fishtrade had refused to use their premises for this meeting.
On the legal paperwork to force a meeting, Peter Laughton gave the option for either Fishtrade director to have voting rights removed, allowing that choice to be made between themselves.
A lawyer acting for Fishtrade advised that the meeting was invalid due to technicalities in the preparation of the shareholders meeting notification and the fact that a resolution was invalid because it did not identify which director, Franchina or Romaro was to have voting rights removed.
This option was put into the resolution for the benefit of the fishtrade directors to decide who would be their preferred person to have equal % voting to Laughton on SAMPI decision making, but resulted in both Fishtrade directors retaining full voting rights, probably illegally.
Instead of selling Sampi product to end users as agreed, Fishtrade sold all Sampi product to themselves, and then sold it to the end user.
Fishtrade kept sale prices secret, invoicing the end user to Fishtrade and paying Sampi an unknown % of sales, while at the same time denying shareholders anything other than an unmeaningful financial summary of the year's transactions.
Initially invoices were produced on Sampi letterheads, but this was later changed without discussion to [FISHTRADE AND SAMPI].
It is understood that all expenses were charged to Sampi such as freight to the end purchaser, but there was no breakdown of freight costs. It is possible that freight charges for unrelated Fishtrade transport to Port Lincoln were also charged to Sampi as part of the same truck run and transport invoice.
Breakdown of freight costs and requests for bank details were refused or never provided by Fishtrade even after contact from A.I.S.C. advising Fishtrade of company law obligation to provide full transparent details.
When Peter Laughton requested more detail than the financial statement he received he was told that it had been approved by qualified certified accountants and was therefore correct and in compliance with company law.
Peter directly contacted the accountant and was refused information, he contacted the bank asking for transaction details but this was also refused.
Sampi secretary (Franchina) advised Peter that the bookkeeping being used was a very complicated MYOB system that he could not personally understand, but that he would arrange for Laughton to get a copy to allow inspection by a competent accountant.
This copy was never provided and many reasons were offered over a long period of time for not supplying Peter with a copy of MYOB details, which still to this day (8 May 2012) have not been provided.
As Peter Laughton has limited accounting familiarisation and the Sampi office is located in Freemantle W.A., and as Franchina had advised Laughton that non company personnel would not be permitted to examine the company records, legal action was taken to allow a Freemantle local [Peter Lombardo], who has extensive experience in business operation and management to act as Laughtons proxy director to examine company records and to try to find an amicable outcome to the situation. The owner of the remaining 10% of sampi was in full agreement with appointing Lombardo to this task.
Lombardo was initially allowed access to some records, but when he discovered discrepancies like money paid to Laughton listed as a dividend and not the travel expenses it was for, and that there was no evidence of initial funding, he was no longer allowed access to the records.
Fishtrade provided the funding, but put it on the books as a loan to be paid back, and charged interest on it.
The original company set up agreement was that Fishtrade would provide $160,000 to match Laughtons contribution of knowhow, plant and equipment, and working without payment supervising setting up the Sampi operation until the company became profitable, at which time profit would be equally divided between shareholders.
Although Lombardo's purpose was quite clear and open, and he had the support of the majority of the shareholders, he was advised in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome to examine the company operation Books ?? or allowed access to the Port Lincoln site, which made it very difficult to complete a full report or offer full recommendations.
Peter Laughton employed another independent Port Lincoln accountant to check the books, but they were also denied access.
Prior to Fishtrade purchasing new premises in Port Lincoln, they knew Peter Laughton had limited ability to put extra money into Sampi, partly due to him giving up his existing business to start Sampi, partly due to him having worked without pay setting up and running the original processing plant over 5 years, and partly due to Fishtrade reneging on an agreement to pay a dividend on profits earned in the previous financial year.
Fishtrade knew Peter Laughton had limited ability to put extra money into Sampi, so they went on a spending spree, deliberately spending a lot more than needed to be spent, and deliberately putting Sampi into a lot of debt, which was loaned to Sampi by Fishtrade at an unknown rate of interest.
Fishtrade spent a lot of money duplicating equipment supplied by Peter, which had already proven adequate to process over 1000 tons of fish waste up to that date, being the majority of all waste fish material available in the Port Lincoln district each season.
Fishtrade also purchased a property, in the name of "Pine Freezers Road" and against other shareholders wishes probably used Sampi time (workers wages) and money to connect power and do very major earthworks. They then started to move Sampi plant and stock onto their own property, and probably charged Sampi rentals based on improvements made with Sampi money.
To avoid loosing a director at a legally demanded Sampi shareholders meeting to evict a Fishtrade Director, Fishtrade offered to sell all shareholders extra shares, still without providing detailed financial records, so that they would of owned the majority of the shares and had full control of any shareholders meeting. Other investors were excluded, and the existing shareholders did not want to put more money in while Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina were directors.
This was stopped by the federal court, so Fishtrade went on a spending spree, then demanded their loan money back within 30 days, and before the court room appointment, still without providing shareholders with financial records.
Fishtrade then put Sampi into voluntary administration, who offered to sell the business to the highest buyer.
The administrator offered a deal to Peter Laughton to stop pending legal action.
Peter Laughton's lawyers told him that he had no choice but to accept the offer, to take it to court would of cost a minimum of $200,000, and more likely to cost $400,000 with no certainty that it would not go much higher. In short Fishtrade would have been able to drag it out till Peter ran out of money, and even if he won, the maximum return would have been limited to Sampi assets, possibly Sampi assets that were not covered by the loan guarantee.
Peter Laughton was denied access to the property and was unable to show potential buyers what assets Sampi had, nor were they allowed to view the assets by themselves.
Because the books showed a very poor return on investment, Fishtrade were the only ones to make an offer, and so Fishtrade will get 100% shareholding, while the original shareholders get nothing .
Peter is a highly qualified boilermaker and was involved in pioneering work with submerged arc welding where the welding is done submerged under granular flux.
Established, owned and ran a successful amateur fishing bait and tackle wholesaler company, sold out to McLaughlin.
Established, owned and ran a fresh fish shop and wholesaler, sold out to Coolpool who are still running it.
Established owned and was running a supply store for commercial fishermen. Was involved in introducing squid fishing and Orange roughy fishing into Australia, invented and marketed an easy to use with gloves on long line clip, and bait launching system.
Developed a method of processing fish waste that does not let the waste go rancid or off, developed and marketed health products based on the Omega 3 and 6 oils and squaline separated from the fish waste. As part of this
process Peter was in regular contact with world leading scientists in this field, and initiated a different classification system for the squaline.
This business was drasticly effected when Pan Pharmaceuticals was closed down.
Peter had the Omega rich oils encapsulated, and spent 3 years getting it approved for sale in the Philippines where the is a big market for it. After approval was finally granted, the Australian government ordered all products encapsulated by Pan Pharmaceutical to be destroyed, costing Peter about $97,072, with a lost projected profit of $270,000 in the first year, growing rapidly as his trade name became established. Claim letter,
This is an ongoing saga and Peter has recently been told that he may not receive any compensation at all, but this is another story.
Owned 45% of Sampi, and was a Sampi director, albeit powerless.
Thought to own 33% of Fishtrade, and is a Fishtrade Managing Director.
Thought to own 50% of “Pine Freezers” and is a “Pine Freezers” managing Director.
Original Managing director of Sampi.
Fishtrade owned 45% of Sampi.
Created to buy 21 Pine Freezers road, and to lease it to Sampi.
Thought to be owned 50/50 by Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina and they are probably both Directors.
RSMI Bird Cameron
RSMI Bird Cameron are the voluntary administrators that Fishtrade called in when Peter started legal action against Fishtrade for breaking company law.
RSMI Bird Cameron reported that Fishtrade had sold all Sampi product to themselves and that the Sampi accountant had not signed the accounts, (normal procedure if the accountant believes it is not a true record).
They seemed to believe that Fishtrade actually used or sold Sampi product independent of anybody that thought they were buying Sampi product, despite the fact that the invoices included the Sampi name.
RSMI Bird Cameron was fully aware of the situation and prevented Peter Laughton from showing potential buyers Sampi Assets, prevented Peter from contacting the Sampi accountant, deliberately prevented Peter Laughton from getting any financial records at all, despite the fact they were obliged to make sure he had them.
They also knowingly violated copyright regarding the Sampi website and deliberately notified creditors AFTER the deadline to register proxy votes at a creditors meeting.
The Administrators have a duty to prosecute past directors if they have acted improperly, and knowingly ignored a number of obvious facts including that Fishtrade deliberately failed to conduct the legally required shareholders meeting to vote to remove directors and ignored the fact that Fishtrade had spent over a million dollars of Sampi money in less than four weeks before the administrators were given control, more than doubling the debt they had built up in all the previous years put together.
It needs to be asked what would inspire the administrator to do such things ?
Greed and raw incompetence is an easy assumption, but it is hard not to be suspicious that they is a lot more involvement with Terry Romaro and Charles Franchina than meets the eye.
Before Sampi existed there was a company called Feedlink, which took the fish waste, minced it, and dried it in a gas fired rotary kiln. This was then sold as dry animal feed. Feedlink probably received government grants to keep operating.
Peter Laughton and Charles Franchina knew each other through their dealing in the Commercial fishing industry.
27 August 2003 An agreement was made that;
Fishtrade and Laughton agreed to form a joint venture company for the purpose of producing fertiliser and fish-bait from fish by-products.
Laughton would contribute his knowledge and skills in respect of the production of trap bait, tuna oils and tuna liquor, together with approximately $100,000 worth of equipment. Fishtrade agreed to contribute $160,000 in four lots of $40,000 as the funds are required. Each party or their nominee would hold 50% of the shares in the joint venture company.
Peter Laughton's knowledge and skills was not just advice, but full time work until Sampi started returning a profit.
He gave up his business in Melbourne and moved to Port Lincoln to do this, and made numerous trips to and from Melbourne transporting equipment. Copy of email agreement
29 January 2004 According to court papers or 1 March 2004 According to administrator, SAMPI was registered as the joint venture company and issued 100 ordinary shares, being 50 to Quotila (on behalf of Laughton) and 50 to Fishtrade.
Sampi originally rented an abandoned meat abattoir for the purpose of testing Peters techniques on Tuna, and to see if there was a market for what could be produced. It was intended to be a low volume set up before investing in something more efficient and permanent. Because Feedlink was no longer the only place processing tuna waste, their government grants dried up and Feedlink folded.
Because the only alternative to Feedlink and Sampi was either dumping the waste in landfill, at $ to the processor, or trucking the waste 600 km to Adelaide, also expensive, Sampi was obliged to suddenly ramp up production, even if it meant dumping the finished product due to lack of storage space. Finished Sampi emulation is a lot better for the environment than rotting tuna waste, and could be spread on farms with the land owner very much in front.
There was a mad scramble at the start of Sampi's life to buy up bulk storage tanks to hold this product.
29 June 2007: Quotila and Fishtrade both sell 5% shares to Discovery III Pty Ltd, for $35,000 each, valuing Sampi at $700,000. (Email dated 20 Aug 2007 @ 7:51 am)
11 Sept 2009: Email implying that Fishtrade offered Laughton $150,000 for his shares close to this date, valuing Sampi at $ 333,333.
4 Nov 2009, Laughton became concerned that Terry Romaro and Franchina in their capacity as directors of SAMPI were causing SAMPI to make decisions and/or take actions without consultation with Laughton. He notified Franchina of his concerns and offered to sell Quotila’s interest in SAMPI for the sum of $546,000, valuing Sampi at $1,213,333 which was rejected by Franchina.
10 Dec 2009: "21 Pine Freezers road" company is created. Thought to be 50% owned by Charles Franchina, 50% owned by Terry Romaro.
Sampi money is probably used to do major earthworks and to connect power to the property at 21 Pine Freezers road, as well as wages for working on the site.
12 Jan 2010: Laughton formally requests financial information to be available at least 28 days before directors meeting is held.Copy of email
All offers and counter offers by Peter Laughton have been made "blind", as Peter was never allowed access to Sampi or Fishtrade books.
2 February 2010, Directors Meeting. Fishtrade decides to relocate Sampi to 21 Pine Freezers road, Port Lincoln, despite objections from Peter Laughton that the site is unsuitable for a number of reasons. Directors Meeting Minutes
Listed as present during this meeting is Phil Vinci as a shareholder, who has never had shares, and Daniel McRorie as a manager which is also wrong. For Terry, Charles and Daniel attending this meeting is a matter of going to a different room in the same building, for Peter it is two flights each way plus accommodation and local transport.
Fishtrade refused to allow him to attend over the phone, refuse to allow him to bring anybody else to any meeting, and failed to produce any financial paperwork.
4 February 2010, Peter Laughton, via solicitors seeks access to Sampi financial records.Request for access.
11 February 2010, Fishtrade refuses access to Sampi financial records.
1 March 2010, Lease of Fishtrades "Pine Freezers" property commences, against the wishes of the majority of the shareholders, and before the property settlement date of May 6th.
Rent for Original building from Ohno is $ 1,865 per 30 days. (Detail in document dated 1st july 2010, page 90)
Rent for Fishtrades building, with no power and needing lots of earthworks is over $ 6,000 per 30 days.
The original block was subdivided and power was originally supplied from part of block that Sampi are not renting.
Detail taken from document dated 12 May 2011 claiming Sampi owes nearly 5 years rent.
19 March 2010, Laughton appointed Peter Lombardo to review Sampi Books and act as a director at Peter Laughton's own expense. Lombardo's Authority
29 March 2010, Directors Meeting. Fishtrade/Sampi resolves to provide Fishtrade with security for loan to Sampi to a limit of $850,000, with a shareholding vote of 45%.Meeting minutes received 23 April 2010
06 May 2010, Settlement date for block of land with shed but no power. bought for $667,150. Previous sale date and amount is unknown. Sampi was paying rent on this property over 8 weeks before "21 Pine Freezers road" owned it.
11 May 2010, Fishtrade ask if Laughton would be interested in selling for $250,000, not offering just asking if he was interested. This would value Sampi at $555,555.
11 / 12 March 2010, Peter Lombardo offers to meet with Fishtrade to try to sort things out, it is flatly rejected.
Between April 2010 and July 2010, Lombardo reviewed and considered various financial records in respect of SAMPI and SAMPI’s business operations. He subsequently prepared a report for Laughton, which recommended that Laughton on behalf of Quotila call a shareholders’ meeting to resolve the perceived deadlock between Laughton and Franchina.
Peter Lombardo was denied access to Sampi premises to conduct this report. Peter Lombardo's report on Sampi
1 July 2010Finance records, with items in random Credit and Debit columns. Not sure when this was received.
3 August 2010, Fishtrade security is registered with the Australian Security's Investments Commission (ASIC), without going to any meetings, without notifying directors and without costings or explanation of borrowings amounts quantified or defined.
10 August 2010, Quotila by its solicitors advised Franchina that Quotila intended to move additional resolutions at the proposed shareholders’ meeting, including a resolution to remove either Romaro or Franchina as a director and a resolution to appoint a new director nominated by Discovery III.
11 August 2010, Franchina advised Quotila that “arrangements will be made in due course for the shareholders meeting” and that “other directors” wanted to move additional resolutions including to remove Laughton as a director.
23 August 2010 4:33 PM, Franchina issued a notice of a directors’ meeting of SAMPI to be held on 27 August 2010 at 10:00am in Fremantle. 3 days notice to drop everything and organise 2 plane flights and accommodation.Notice of meeting.
27 August 2010, a directors’ meeting of SAMPI was held.
Franchina, Romaro and Laughton attended the meeting, which went for a total of 10 minutes
At the meeting, the directors of Fishtrade passed the following resolution:
[SAMPI] undertake a pro-rata rights issue, pursuant to clauses 4 and 5 of [SAMPI’s] Constitution, by the issue of 100 fully paid ordinary shares at $5,555 per share to raise a total sum of $555,000, the purpose of which would be to:
Retire debt of $358,062 owed to Fishtrade International Pty Ltd;
Provide additional working capital of $197,438 to fund on-going business activities; and
The Company Secretary be authorised to issue a letter to shareholders, notifying the shareholders that they are entitled to apply for their pro rate share entitlement by 5pm on 16 September 2010.
Fishtrade knew that Peter Laughton had very limited funds, and had received no money from Sampi, and was unable to buy these shares. This was the whole point, once Fishtrade had the majority of the shareholders voting rights, they could hold a shareholders meeting and not get removed as Directors. The other 10% shareholder did not want to put money into a company while Fishtrade were Directors.
Franchina and Romaro voted in favour of the Resolution, and Laughton voted against it.
Prior to the Resolution, Franchina and/or Romaro did not obtain any advice for and on behalf of SAMPI in respect of the proposed Rights Issue from an accountant, financial planner or business advisor; or alternatively, any such advice that suggested that there was an urgent need for the proposed Rights Issue.
As at the time of the Resolution, SAMPI did not have any urgent need for funds in that its principal creditor was Fishtrade, whose debt was secured by way of registered charge.
At all material times, Franchina knew that Quotila and/or Laughton were not able to raise funds, whether in the time stipulated in the Resolution or at all, in order to take up the proposed Rights Issue.
Romaro and Franchina in exercising their power to make the resolution did not exercise their powers as directors of SAMPI and discharge their duties to SAMPI in good faith; and acted for an improper purpose, namely to dilute Quotila’s shareholding in SAMPI in order to defeat Quotila’s attempt to call a shareholders’ meeting and to preserve Franchina’s control of SAMPI and thereby contravened s. 181 of the Act and/or acted in breach of their fiduciary duty as directors of SAMPI.
The resolution was oppressive to, unfairly prejudicial to, or unfairly discriminatory against, Quotila within the meaning of s. 232 of the Act. Meeting minutes
Short version, Peter Laughton took Fishtrade to court for a large number of issues, including failing to hold shareholders meetings and not acting the in shareholders interests, but Fishtrade put Sampi into the hands of administrators before the court hearing date.
15 September 2010, Peter Laughton / Quotila trading made an application to the Federal Court of Australia seeking orders for access to the company records and an injunction preventing the rights issue to proceed.
16 September 2010, Deadline for share rights issue. Fishtrade offers funds of $249,975 to buy Sampi shares, no other shareholders have access to Sampi company records, and none else offers funds.
18 September 2010 Notice of Sampi Directors meeting to hire a lawyer in Sampi's name. Notice of Meeting Received: Saturday, 18 September, 2010, 12:10 PM.
19 September 2010 Fishtrade hire a lawyer in Sampi's name.Directors meeting Minutes Held on Sunday 19 September 2010 at 10am, less than 24 hours after the Notice of a meeting and Peter may not of even been aware of the meeting.
05 November 2010 Peter Laughton calls a general meeting for 17 November 2010 to remove one of the Fishtrade Directors.
12 November 2010 Fremantle Chamber of Commerce booking.
17 November 2010 Directors and Shareholders meeting.
Peter Laughton, at his own expense, hired a neutral chairperson and a meeting room for this meeting, but Fishtrade refused to allow a neutral chairperson to chair any meeting.
The meeting minutes showing Peter as having no objection to Fishtrade replacing the hired neutral chairperson, signed by Terry Romaro, are simply wrong, as are a number of other items in various meeting minutes, which is why this meeting was recorded in the first place. Meeting as MP3 (3.3 MiB)Meeting as Ogg (2.4 MiB)Meeting as Wav (18.4 MiB)
The forced shareholders meeting of SAMPI was cancelled by Fishtrade because the date of requesting additional resolutions at the meeting required by Peter Laughton was slightly later than the required period of notice.
The original resolutions, with the required notice were ignored.
Fishtrade also declare the proxy shareholders vote to be invalid, and vote against Peter Laughton, and their 45% shareholding outweighs Peters 45% shareholding. Meeting minutes
That night Peter suffered his first ever heart attack, and woke up in hospital.
2 February 2011 Fishtrade issues a formal demand upon Sampi for the repayment of $850,000 by no later than 3 May 2011.
Early 2011 Fishtrade buy unknown Sampi assets, paying $18,381.
14 February 2011
Administrators are backdated to this date.
Sampi debt on 27 August 2010 was $358,062, Sampi debt on 19 January was $764,247, Sampi debt on 14 February 2011 was $1,879,625, and Sampi assets totalled $1,820,314, a difference of $59,311 between total assets and total debt.
They managed to go into extra debt of $1,521,563 in less than 6 months, and an extra $1,056,067 into debt between 19 Jan 2011 and 14 Feb 2011, when their own predictions of requirements was less than $197,438, and the new site still needs work done. This blowout of well over 770% was not accidental.
21 February 2011, Fishtrade decides that shareholders are not prepared to support the repayment of the Fishtrade loan and declare that Sampi is or may become insolvent and resolve to appoint voluntary administrators. Directors meeting minutes
Administrators start date according to Administrators documents.
03 March 2011 First meeting of Creditors.
09 March 2011 Peters lawyer told him he does not have a choice but to drop the court case, the only option is to start a new court case.
4 May 2011, Administrators produce a Administrators report.
This report notes that Fishtrade is Sampi's only customer, and that the financial records are unsigned.
Administrators are fully aware of the situation, prevented Peter Laughton from contacting the accountant that did not sign the financial records, prevented Peter Laughton or other possible syndicate buyers from inspecting Sampi assets, authorised copyright infringement, did not require the Sampi web site to advertise for possible buyers, failed to ensure that statuary requirements have been met, not only in the business dealings but also in making sure the shareholders had proper records, even after they had asked for them. Prevented Peter Laughton from talking to possible buyers to inform them of the Hollywood accounting. Link to RSMI report.
09 May 2011 Original court hearing date, cancelled because Fishtrade deliberately spent too much and put Sampi into voluntary administration.
11 May 2011, Administrators notify at least one creditor of a creditors meeting AFTER the deadline to register a proxy vote for the Second creditors meeting.
12 May 2011 Second meeting of Creditors. List of Creditors and amounts. Including $358,200 in rent owed to Fishtrades company "Pine Freezers Road", or about $ 1,500 per week for 5 years. This did not go to any meeting to be approved and started over 8 weeks before "Pine Freezers Road" owned the property.
17 June 2011 Andrew Complained to ASIC. Complaint 82411980
22 June 2011 I have evidence that Fishtrade continued spending Sampi money
19 August 2011 Andrew received email from Mark Asclipenos at ASIC stating "ASIC cannot comment on or provide details to you of any proposed course of action."
Reference: 25833/11 (08) 8202 8548.
???????? Final settlement date is unknown by Author, who was never notified. Fishtrade regain formal control of Sampi.
29 June 2012 Peter Laughton Dies.
Payment for the 25 Jan 2011 court hearing has still not been received.
Payment for copyright has still not been received.
Payment for Peters expenses and time have still not been received.