The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has taken out a Federal Court of Australia injunction preventing Melbourne webhosting company Pacific Blue Online from offering to set up Swiss bank accounts for its clients.
ASIC alleged that Brett Anderson & Co, trading as Pacific Blue Online, had been advertising for customers to set up Swiss bank accounts and that those advertisements had contained 'dishonest, misleading and deceptive statements' about the features of the Swiss bank accounts.
ASIC further alleged that Brett Anderson & Co – a private company registered in Victoria -- was offering financial services without an Australian Financial Services licence.
Also, ASIC claimed that the company's former director, Brett Anderson, had criminal convictions which disqualified him from managing a corporation.
Anderson was no longer listed as a director but was still the main company contact for Pacific Blue Online.
The ad allegedly invited readers to log on to Pacific Blue Online to get details on a Swiss banking service. The website invited customers to pay a fee in exchange for Brett Anderson & Co setting up a Swiss bank account on their behalf.
Neither the current director, John Terlato of Melbourne, or Anderson returned phone calls or emails made in the last two days, although Anderson's email address yielded an automated 'thank you for contacting us' response in German, French and Italian as well as English.
Pacific Blue Online's website, http://www.pacificblueonline.com.au, was replaced with a notice suggesting the site was being relaunched, and an apology to customers whose orders had not been filled.
'We are sorry we are no longer offering this service. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Customers who have already sent their orders and have any queries regarding their orders should contact Mr. Brett Anderson by email email@example.com,' the website said.
A spokesperson for ASIC said that it did not know if Pacific Blue Online was still trading. However, that seemed unlikely given that its main activity had now been curtailed, she said.
The commission could not comment further on the case, she said.
ASIC said in a statement that it had begun investigating Brett Anderson & Co after Pacific Blue Online placed an advertisement in Melbourne's MX newspaper on 21 April.
The commission's application for final orders against Brett Anderson & Co has been scheduled to be heard on 2 July.
Brett Anderson & Co was first listed on the Australian Business Register on 10 April 2003. The company formerly traded as Anyloanz, X-Gen Financial Services and Pacific Blue Express Transport & Logistics.
It has been reported that Anderson planned to restart the webhosting business next month, but offering 'more traditional' services such as domain name registration and web design.
Anderson had reportedly been charging $150 to email customers' contact details to an unnamed Swiss bank.
Swiss banks have had a reputation for many years as places to store funds semi-anonymously under less scrutiny than in most other nations.
Bank accounts in Switzerland – which can be difficult and costly to open and maintain – are held under a number or pseudonym rather than the accountholder's actual name.
Nazi funds were hidden there after World War II.
Today, Swiss banks are required to cough up account-holders suspected of holding funds there gained by criminal practices, such as drug trafficking or money-laundering. Tax evasion is likewise frowned upon.
However, banking in Switzerland is reportedly still popular as a way for the wealthy to prevent former spouses from gaining access to their funds or to keep funds away from litigants.