FROM the balcony of his luxury two-storey villa overlooking
Repulse Bay, Michael Hutchence could gaze clear across the South China Sea. He had lived
in Hong Kong from the ages of four to 12, and in the late 1980s had been lured back, not
by fond memories, but by his financial adviser of the time, Gordon William Fisher.
It was Fisher - a barrister and international tax guru - who
sponsored Hutchence's application for Hong Kong residency and guided him towards the
property in a ritzy part of Hong Kong Island with its spectacular backdrop of mountain and
Leather-clad and fashionably unkempt, Hutchence looked every inch
the rock star whenever he strutted into the staid confines of Fisher's chambers in the
island's central business district.
From Hong Kong, Fisher pulled the strings on a complex and
constantly evolving international web of corporations that operated trust funds for a
number of wealthy clients in tax havens stretching from the Caribbean to the Channel
Islands. Michael Hutchence, multimillionaire singer with the rock band INXS, was one of
his most important.
It was a relationship, however, that was to explode almost 10
years ago. People will nowadays only hint at the exact cause of the dispute, but needless
to say, money was at the heart of the fight. The feud with Fisher became so acrimonious it
reverberated throughout the band and its management. Hutchence vowed that he would never
again have anything to do with Fisher.
Fisher, a Scotsman, left Hong Kong suddenly in 1988 and headed
for Monaco. Two of Fisher's associates stepped in to help Hutchence with his finances. One
was a lanky barrister from Queensland, Colin Thomas Diamond. The other was a Hong
Kong-based Scottish accountant, Andrew Morrison Paul.
At the time Diamond commiserated with at least one member of the
Hutchence family, complaining that he too had been left high and dry by Fisher's sudden
When he died in a Sydney hotel room last November, Hutchence was
technically a bankrupt. For tax reasons, most of his assets - estimated to be worth more
than $20million - were a maze of trusts and companies from Liberia through Europe and
Asia to the British Virgin Islands.
Many of these companies have either Diamond or Paul as a
As trustee, it is Diamond who controls this complex web. Legally
he has total control over the assets held in the trusts and therefore decides who gets
what - if anything.
Both men are also executors of Hutchence's will.
The Age has learnt that both men, despite assurances to Hutchence
over the years, maintained close links with Fisher.
This paper also has documentation showing that the three were
involved in a three-year Australian Federal Police investigation into a scheme that
resulted in a $19 million loss for a Federal Government agency. While the police
recommended that Fisher be charged over the fraud, the Director of Public Prosecutions
decided not to proceed.
Further, Fisher's tax minimisation advice was investigated during
the "bottom of-the-harbour'' phase of the Costigan Royal Commission. One of Fisher's
clients was subsequently charged with tax offences but was later acquitted.
In a separate matter, Fisher had also come to the attention of
the New South Wales police, who wanted to talk to him about the disappearance of one of
his clients, who was on bail awaiting trial on a serious heroin charge but managed to
leave the country.
According to friends and colleagues of Fisher, a former partner
in the establishment law firm Allen Allen and Hemsley, Fisher left Australia abruptly in
1986. He has never returned; not for his divorce, and not even for his daughter's wedding
Diamond and Paul have total discretion over Hutchence's assets.
The rock singer's will clearly states that his daughter, Heavenly
Hiraani Tiger Lily, should receive half his estate and the remaining half should be
divided equally between his mother, father, sister, brother and Paula Yates.
But the executors have given scant information on Hutchence's
financial position to members of the family, leading his mother and sister to feel they
have been excluded.
A further difficulty is that Hutchence's assets are held in the
discretionary trusts. Generally speaking, beneficiaries under a will have no right to
anything held in a discretionary trust. Nor do the beneficiaries have a right to see what
assets of the dead person the trusts might hold.
Within a month of Hutchence's suicide in the Ritz Carlton, his
mother, Patricia Glassop, received a letter from the executors of the estate informing her
that her son had never owned a villa in the south of France.
"We have been told that the villa where I was married in the
south of France in July, 1996, with Michael by my side, is not Michael's house,'' his
sister, Tina, says. "This is the house where my family has spent many summers and
many Christmas vacations together.''
"We want to make sure that whatever wealth Michael
accumulated in his lifetime is distributed the way he wanted it and not the way other
people want,'' his mother says.
"We think Michael's will is very fair. We just want it
complied with and provision made for Tiger Lily as Michael would have wanted.''
Hutchence's mother and his father, Kell Hutchence, disagree on
many things. But both were alarmed when they discovered Fisher was working closely with
Colin Diamond again. Since Hutchence's death, his mother has been told her son had nothing
to do with three Gold Coast properties he had told both his parents were his. Also missing
are a number of expensive cars. Nor was his house in London part of his estate.
This situation contrasts starkly with a document dated 17 January
1994 (see table on page one), sent by Andrew Paul from Hong Kong and marked for the
attention of Colin Diamond, detailing Hutchence's assets. Included are the villa in
France, the house in London, a half-share in one Gold Coast property and more than $3
million in cash. Hutchence's estate lists none of these assets - nor any royalties from
Hutchence's mother has threatened legal action against the
company now trying to sell one of Hutchence's Gold Coast properties. And this week, the
company that organised the rock singer's funeral, Walter Carter Funerals, has made legal
threats to the executors over its unpaid bill for $49,587.94.
This development has further incensed Hutchence's mother. Just
one week after the funeral, Colin Diamond's Gold Coast-based solicitor brother, Stephen,
wrote to lawyers representing Glassop.
"Colin Diamond has personally disbursed over $60,000 from
his own personal funds to attend to the funeral and associated expenses," Stephen
Diamond said in the letter, dated 3 December last year.
The letter continued by saying that as Hutchence's mother was the
only member of the family "who has any real prospects" of paying for the
funeral, "could you kindly take instructions from Mrs Glassop as to whether she would
reimburse Mr Colin Diamond for the cost of funeral and associated expenses".
The cost of the funeral (the amount is contested) is listed as a
liability against the Hutchence estate. Last month, Diamond instructed lawyers in Hong
Kong to tell the funeral company that it could "stand in line with the other
unsecured creditors" for payment.
Diamond, who now lives on a farm just north of Auckland and keeps
an extremely low profile, didn't attend the service.
As several hundred friends, family and music industry luminaries
gathered in St Andrew's Cathedral to pay their last respects, Diamond was boarding a
flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast to catch up with his brother Stephen "to seek
urgent legal counsel".
"He then returned to New Zealand to face pressing family
conditions of his own," Stephen Diamond wrote on 3 December.
GORDON Fisher made the long journey from Glasgow's working class
streets to the oak-lined, padded leather boardroom of Allen Allen and Hemsley by
Escaping chronic unemployment, he joined the Royal Navy,
volunteered for submarines and progressed to junior officer. Tough, resilient and devoted
to his career, he saw more opportunities in Australia in the early 1970s and transferred
into the Royal Australian Navy, again in submarines.
Defence was anything but a growth industry during the Whitlam
Labor years and Gordon seized a chance to ditch the armed forces and enrol at the
University of New South Wales in 1975, despite never having matriculated. But he was a
diligent and extremely gifted student, particularly in an area normally avoided by others:
At the time, Fisher struck most people who met him as a man in a
hurry. Having come to law late in life he was keen to go places and go quickly. In 1978
Tom Magney, then head of the tax department at Allens, was lecturing part-time on tax in a
masters of law class at the University of Sydney. Magney was so impressed by his nuggety
Glaswegian student that he recommended to his partners at Allens that Fisher be offered a
Once at Allens he proved to be astonishingly productive.
"Being a submariner, he only slept for about four hours every night. I think in a
submarine you were four hours off, four hours on. He'd got into a four-hour sleeping
cycle," one colleague recalled.
Others remember him arriving at the office about 5am, working all
day, going home at 8pm for "tea", working again until nearly midnight, having
four hours' sleep and then heading back into office to start all over again.
One Allens partner, who did not wish to be named, said Fisher
"moved an enormous amount of work". He recalled asking him to have something
ready on Wednesday "and he would stay up all night so he could have it to you on
It surprised no one when he was offered a partnership after only
two years. Fisher accepted it even though he was already toying with going to the Bar.
He immediately embarked on building up a big practice in
"aggressive tax planning". His clients were in the big league and soon he was
jetsetting around the world. His partners maintain the firm wasn't picking up the bill.
At the time he started at Allens, Fisher was living in a modest
house at Maroubra with his then wife, Marea, and young daughter. He had put himself
through law school by driving cabs at night.
While at Allens his entrepreneurial streak saw him not only
offering advice but occasionally joining in his clients' business schemes. Soon he had
moved from Maroubra to a huge mansion in Vaucluse complete with his and hers BMWs.
The Age has learnt that just as some of his more conservative
colleagues at Allens were contemplating an examination of his activities, Fisher announced
he was off to the Bar.
Shortly after he left, the tax office arrived at Allens,
requesting Fisher's files on one of his clients, Brian Ray. As files remain the property
of the firm, there was some surprise to find that they too had gone.
Ray, a punting mate of Kerry Packer and a Queensland property
developer, had become embroiled in the Costigan Royal Commission.
About 1979, Ray was introduced to Fisher. Ray had been introduced
to a tax minimisation scheme involving film financing by a family friend, Ian Beames, who
had been convicted of fraud and was facing a jail sentence. Promising to look after
Beames's business interests while he was inside, Ray took over directorships of several
Fisher took to the scheme with relish. Huge amounts of money
began flowing through Hong Kong and Singapore bank accounts. For nine months the Costigan
Royal Commission inquired into transactions involving Ray and Beames. Charges were laid
against Ray as a result of the commission's investigations. He was later acquitted.
It was at this time that Fisher met Colin Diamond, a small-time
Coolangatta solicitor who preferred wheeling and dealing on his own account to acting for
They were an odd-looking pair. Fisher was short, with a stocky,
muscular build. Diamond, who at that stage sported a bushy beard, appeared much taller.
In 1982, Fisher became a barrister. His style contrasted with
that of the more staid members of the Bar. He immediately moved into a double room on the
13th floor of Wentworth Chambers, normally available to only the most senior barristers.
They watched in awe as the "baby junior" outfitted the room in the most opulent
He did extremely well at the Bar and built up a huge practice,
but according to fellow barristers he became overloaded.
In 1986, Fisher packed everything in, left his wife and daughter
and moved to Hong Kong. It was a pattern he would repeat in subsequent years. A few years
later, he was off to Monaco. Again there were problems, and his associate in the Monaco
office said that in 1991, Fisher disappeared overnight. He was soon back in Hong Kong.
One person who knew Fisher during his time in Monaco said:
"The only thing about Gordon Fisher is he is one of the most intelligent people I
have ever met and at the end of the day people are going to want his services just because
he's brilliant. People like me would never deal with him again under any
Fisher was also linked to a very sophisticated operation that
ended up costing the Australian Government millions of dollars.
It took Australian Federal Police more than two years to get to
the bottom of the financial maze as investigations focused on complex international
transactions through a dozen tax havens.
Providing the sophisticated advice on the international monetary
transactions was a team of tax specialists and lawyers. One was Gordon William Fisher.
Andrew Paul, Colin Diamond and his brother Stephen were also
investigated by the AFP and the Diamonds' Gold Coast offices were raided. Nothing of
substance was found and no charges were ever recommended against the three.
The scheme, which ran from 1985 to 1989, worked this way.
Exporters are paid by what are known as bills of exchange. Usually they mature at six
monthly intervals over three to five years. But if an exporter can obtain a bank guarantee
from the Export Finance Insurance Corporation - a Federal Government body - the bills of
exchange can be sold to a bank and the money can be obtained upfront. Here, the bank was
By the time the scheme collapsed in 1989, Australian taxpayers
had lost $19 million and the ANZ Banking Group had lost almost $3 million.
Federal Police, called in in 1988, spent the next three years
trying to unravel the complex web of deals and corporations.
They began concentrating on the money trail - through Amsterdam,
the Dutch Antilles, the Channel Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong and Monaco.
All companies would be owned by others operating out of tax havens.
The AFP found most of these companies listed other companies as
directors. The director companies were invariably run by trusts, controlled by trustee
companies, based in places like the Virgin Islands. Many in the web were regularly wound
up, and replaced by others.
In Monaco, the chief AFP investigator interviewed an Englishman
who appeared to fit into the web.
But Norman Leighton politely told them he simply shared office
space with Fisher. Fisher had disappeared overnight, removing all his files and office
furniture. His nearby house was also empty. Fisher had disappeared without trace.
THE English accent echoing down the line has a distinctly
nervous, almost breathless tone.
"I know very little about Mr Fisher," Norman Leighton
says. "I've had better relationships with people. We shared an office but he just
disappeared off the face of the earth one day about six years ago. Everything was
During the four years Leighton shared an office with Fisher,
Colin Diamond visited Monaco a number of times. This was after Hutchence had washed his
hands of Fisher and during the time when Diamond supposedly claimed Fisher had ruined his
Asked if he was involved in any companies associated with Fisher,
Diamond or Hutchence's assets, Leighton responds with an emphatic no. What about Rodman
Enterprises? Never heard of it.
But according to searches obtained by The Age, Leighton is a
director of a company called Rodman Plastics. One of his fellow directors is Andrew
Morrison Paul. This company controls Rodman Enterprises, which operates out of Hong Kong
and which apparently owns some of the assets that Michael Hutchence treated as his own.
Rodman took over after Paul wound up the previous company
controlling Hutchence's European assets, Joint Sincerity, in 1996.
The Age also has a copy of a facsimile sent by Leighton to
Hutchence on 24 July 1995. The fax notes that the 40,000 French francs (about $9000 at
present exchange rates) sent each month to maintain the French villa at Roquefort Les Pins
is insufficient to meet a number of "unusual expenses" including work to the
swimming pool, an Aston Martin car and costs associated with a tax audit.
"I have requested Andy Paul to remit a further 100,000
francs to meet these unusual expenses and he asked that you give your approval," he
It is hard to reconcile this with a letter to Michael Hutchence's
mother from Stephen Diamond on Christmas Eve last year.
"The executors advise to the best of their knowledge and
belief that Michael Hutchence did not purchase and more particularly at the time of his
death, did not own a villa in the south of France."
A similar story surrounds Hutchence's house at 48 Smith Terrace
in London. The Age has a number of facsimiles, signed by Hutchence, authorising extensive
renovations to the house. Yet the house is not listed as part of Hutchence's estate. Its
owner is a company in the British Virgin Islands.
In 1994, Paul sent a facsimile to Colin Diamond detailing
Hutchence's assets. More than $3 million was deposited in Virgin Islands-based accounts
listed as Chardonnay Investments, Red Light and other personal accounts.
So confusing is the ownership of the web of corporations
controlling Hutchence's assets, and so widely dispersed are these companies, that it is
almost impossible to come to grips with the structure.
Accompanying Michael Hutchence's last will and testament is a
statement of his assets and liabilities. Almost no assets are listed. But among the
liabilities are "debts owed to Pokfield for an amount to be quantified".
Pokfield is a Liberian-registered company. It features Andrew
Morrison Paul as a director.
Colin and Stephen Diamond have been in contact with Hutchence's
father, Kell. They have brokered a truce with Paula Yates. But both refuse to deal with
Hutchence's mother, Patricia Glassop. It is a situation that has left her overcome with
"I feel like I have lost Michael twice," she told The
Age. "His houses have been closed down and his personal effects have been locked
away. I do not even have one of his shirts to remind me of him."