Regional CEO made Hastie exit from Middle East over arrest fears

Former chief executive Gavin Appleby says he had to flee the UAE as he feared being arrested over bounced company cheques which were being investigated by government authorities

Gavin Appleby, the former regional chief executive for collapsed company Hastie Group’s operations in the Middle East has told The Australian newspaper that he has had to flee the UAE over fears he will be arrested due to bounced company cheques.

One cheque has already bounced, and another is expected to bounce, worth a total of over $700,000, said Appleby who left the company last January. Hastie’s Middle East operations have been caught up in the company’s collapse under an estimated $600m in debt.

“Basically, the bottom line for me is that I found out (on June 1) that there was still four cheques in the market with my signature on,” he was quoted as saying by the daily.

“These were signed last year (while) I was employed by Hastie Group Middle East for workers’ accommodation and the head office in the UAE. I am also now aware that one of those cheques has bounced and officials have turned up at the Hastie UAE office yesterday,”

In June of this year, TBP reported that the Australian contractor had not paid its workers’ salaries, leaving many stranded and facing mounting debts as the company headed into administration.

Furthermore, reports have emerged that Hasties may have hidden costs relating to its Middle East ventures before inviting investors to pump $160m into the company.

Bill Wild, a former Leighton Holdings executive and Wal King’s right hand man, was appointed to turn the company around. However, during his own personal investigations into the operations of the contractor’s overseas accounts, he uncovered costs that had not been obvious when the investment was first raised.

“On January 1, I jumped on a plane and spent the whole of that month visiting our international businesses in the UK and the Middle East and I went through the whole business,” he said at the time. “And that resulted in another $100m charge, which led to the $150m loss for the half year.

“For my own due diligence, I relied on the prospectus and a set of annual accounts and the fact that a number of reputable hard-nosed investors had put $160m into the business,” he told The Australian. “The simple fact is that there was a prospectus that was put out last year and there were annual accounts that were published in August and none of them showed this.”

Hastie Group operates in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Middle East and the United Kingdom. Hastie International Middle East was established in 2005 as an MEP services provider. It also owns Rotary International which worked on Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel.

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