Andrew McManus, promoter to stars including Aerosmith, Laura Dundovic and KISS, arrested in international cocaine ring bust… after police trace $700,000 in cash he claimed was ‘for a Lenny Kravitz concert’
- Music promoter Andrew McManus was arrested and charged by police
- It is alleged the 54-year-old was part of an international drug trafficking ring
- The investigation began when $702,000 was found in a hotel room in 2011
- McManus claimed the money was payment for a Lenny Kravitz concert
A prominent Australian music promoter is one of five men who have been arrested over an alleged cocaine smuggling ring.
A four-year joint investigation between NSW Police and the United States’ FBI led to the arrests of the group of men.
Detectives arrested three men in Sydney on Thursday night while a fourth man – 54-year-old music promoter Andrew McManus – was arrested at Melbourne Airport, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
It has also been reported the detained Sydney men were crime figure Craig Haeusler, Kings Cross solicitor Michael Croke and Auburn pastry shop owner Zeki Atilgan.
McManus has been charged with perverting the course of justice, two counts of intention to defraud by false or misleading statement and knowingly participating in a criminal group.
A fifth man was arrested in the US by the FBI for drug offences and money laundering, NSW Police said in a statement.
US businessman Owen Hanson Jr was arrested while playing golf in San Diego, the Herald reported.
McManus (left with Laura Dundovic and right with Stevie Nicks) was arrested along with crime figure Craig Haeusler, Kings Cross solicitor Michael Croke and Auburn pastry shop owner Zeki Atilgan
NSW detectives started investigating the alleged syndicate in August 2011 after a bag of $702,000 in cash was found in a man’s Sydney hotel room.
WHO IS ANDREW MCMANUS?
Andrew McManus, who owns McManus Entertainment, has been responsible for bringing Aerosmith, KISS and Lenny Kravitz to Australia.
He was forced to declare bankruptcy when the ATO discovered he had a $2.4 million tax debt after he was left $4.2 million out of pocket when deals and tours fell through.
McManus had to sell off his fleet of luxury cars and extensive property portfolio to cover his substantial debts.
The music promoter made headlines again back in 2011 when he was linked to a bag of $702,000 in cash that he claimed was payment for a Lenny Kravitz concert.
Four years later, he was arrested for his alleged part in a international cocaine ring, along with three Sydney men and a US citizen.
A court case was brought against NSW Police for the return of the cash when McManus claimed the bag was his and the money was payment for a Lenny Kravitz concert when he toured Australia.
But the police won and in late 2014 conducted raids in Sydney and Victoria, which netted $68,000 cash, drugs, steroids, documents and electronic equipment.
The operation also uncovered information regarding the alleged importation of 300kg of cocaine from Mexico to Australia via the US.
Since then, police have been investigating alleged drug trafficking between Mexico, the US and Australia, and associated money laundering.
Australian Crime Commission NSW manager Warren Gray said ‘investigations like this one affirm the effectiveness of “following the money'”‘.
NSW Police have charged a 55-year-old man with perverting the course of justice, intention to defraud by false or misleading statement and knowingly participating in a criminal group.
A 65-year-old has been charged with perverting the course of justice, three counts of intention to defraud by false or misleading statement and knowingly participating in a criminal group.
A 32-year-old man was charged with two counts of money laundering.
NSW detectives started investigating the alleged syndicate in August 2011 after a bag of $702,000 in cash was found in a man’s Sydney hotel room. Above is one of the three Sydney men being arrested on Thursday
Police raided the homes of three men in Kellyville, Miranda, and Sydney CBD following the extensive investigation
The group of men have been bailed to appear at Sydney courts at later dates. NSW Police are also seeking to extradite a US citizen
The group of men have been bailed to appear at Sydney courts at later dates.
NSW Police is seeking the extradition of a 33-year-old US citizen to Sydney on arrest warrants for money laundering, perverting the course of justice and intent to defraud by false or misleading statement, as well as an additional charge of drug supply of a large commercial quantity.
Detectives from the Organised Crime Squad are currently in San Diego, California, working with the FBI.
A number of search warrants were executed, with officers seizing cash, gold, silver, cannabis and documentation.
Drug trafficking, money laundering bust sees five men, including Melbourne music promoter, arrested in joint NSW Police-FBI investigation
Five men, including Melbourne music promoter Andrew McManus, have been arrested following a joint FBI and New South Wales police investigation into international drug trafficking and money laundering.
An investigation was launched after police seized more than $700,000 from a man at a Sydney hotel in 2011.
NSW Police faced legal action for the return of the money, with a claim being made that it was payment for an international band who had toured Australia, but the case was thrown out of the Supreme Court and investigations continued.
Last year, New South Wales and Victoria police raided five properties, seizing more than $68,000 in cash and steroids.
Detectives say they also uncovered the importation of 300 kilograms of cocaine from Mexico to Australia, via the United States.
Following a joint operation with the FBI in San Diego, California, police last night arrested McManus, 54, in Melbourne.
McManus’ promotion companies have brought a number of high-profile entertainers to Australia, including Kiss, Mötley Crüe and Stevie Nicks.
A 65-year-old Sydney solicitor and two other New South Wales men were also charged.
Subsequent searches at a home in Kellyville, in Sydney’s north-west, uncovered cash, steroids and cannabis.
New South Wales Police are also trying to extradite US citizen Owen Hanson, 33, to Sydney so he can be charged.
He was arrested by FBI agents in the parking lot of a golf course in near San Diego, California, where he remains in custody on US federal drug charges, according to a statement from the FBI.
“The commitment made by the detectives and others involved in this investigation has been outstanding — they never lost focus on the job at hand,” commander of the Organised Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, said in a statement.
“As recent investigations have shown, it is now clear that organised syndicates impacting NSW are often transnational in nature.
“Whilst this presents us with challenges, those who undertake these activities need to understand that being outside the jurisdiction will not save you.”
Australian Crime Commission state manager NSW Warren Gray said that, in this instance, “following the money” led to the discovery of criminal activity.
“The collaborative work between NSW Police and the FBI, and multiple partner agencies, is highly commendable and this outcome is a great result for the Australian community,” he said.
Andrew McManus at centre of storm
Big business: Andrew McManus in his office. Photo: Teagan Glenane FCN
Controversial music promoter Andrew McManus has unwittingly revealed an important career lesson to tax evaders: if you are going to boast about ripping off the Australian Tax Office, don’t confide in the police.
His bizarre admission emerged last week in a court case involving the promoter, a bag full of cash, international rock acts including Fleetwood Mac and Lenny Kravitz and crime figures from Australia and the US.
“I’m not a dickhead but… if this went to the ATO, I’d be cooked again.”
During an investigation into the source of the $702,000 cash found in a Sydney hotel room in 2011, McManus claimed the money was his. He boasted to police if they came round to his house “right now” they would find a safe with “600 large sittin’ in it”.
Legends: International rock act Fleetwood Mac.
When the police asked about the source of the money, he said, “This isn’t going anywhere?” He then offered that the “600 large” came from a Lenny Kravitz tour.
He told police that he used 20 crew members to “sneak” the cash in from New Zealand.
“I’m not a dickhead but… if this went to the ATO, I’d be cooked again,” he volunteered.
Legal fight: Sean Carolan at the Supreme Court in Sydney. Photo: Photo: Janie Barrett
Documents tendered during a recent battle in the NSW Supreme Court over the money have revealed that McManus also accepted $450,000 in cash from the outlaw Perth bikie gang, the Coffin Cheaters.
He also admitted to police that he withheld funds from rock groups including international stars Fleetwood Mac.
McManus also confided to police about the financial fallout from his involvement in the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal.
The saga of the suitcase full of cash had its origins in May 2011 when McManus was staying at the luxurious InterContinental hotel in Macquarie Street, a short walk from Sydney’s Circular Quay.
In his hotel room he had a number of plastic shopping bags crammed with $10,000 bundles of cash totalling $702,000. His long-time friend and associate Craig Haeusler emptied the bags into a suitcase.
Haeusler, a drug kingpin who served five years in jail for running a multi-million dollar drug ring supplying methamphetamines to Sydney’s eastern suburbs, then gave the money to a young American, Owen Hanson jnr.
Haeusler told police he had been introduced to Hanson by a Chinese gambling identity and that the pair had bet on the NFL in America.
Hanson, who moved hotels every few days, was nicknamed “Dispose” by his Australian friends because of his propensity to dispose of pre-paid mobile phones.
Haeusler later told police that McManus was repaying Hanson who had stumped up the deposit McManus needed for a ZZ Top tour.
The suitcase of cash was then hidden by Hanson in the ceiling of a rented apartment in Kent Street for three months. In August he handed the suitcase of cash to his personal trainer, Sean Carolan.
On August 11, 2011, police received an anonymous tip-off that the occupant of room 3026 in the Hilton Hotel had a gun. The occupant, Carolan, a former cage fighter and racehorse trainer turned personal trainer, didn’t have a gun — but he did have a black suitcase containing McManus’s $702,000, which the police seized.
Carolan’s subsequent legal fight to recover the money has brought to light a bizarre series of events.
On the night police seized the cash, Carolan said he was merely minding the money for Hanson, who didn’t want to lose any more at the casino.
CCTV footage from Star City casino obtained by the police shows earlier that day Carolan and Hanson were in a heated conversation with Robert Cipriani, a well-known American high roller who calls himself Robin Hood 702 (702 is the telephone code for Las Vegas).
Police records note that Cipriani “is well known to the casino and is currently of interest to the Australian Federal Police”.
The day after the cash was seized, Cipriani left for Los Angeles.
During the investigation into the suitcase, police interviewed Hanson by videolink from the Beverly Hills police station in Los Angeles. “Do you want me to tell you the, the full story of how basically this money was laundered…?” Hanson offered.
He said the cash had come from McManus but, contrary to Carolan’s initial version, Hanson claimed he had given the money to Carolan to invest in Carolan’s weight loss clinic.
As well as expressing concern at Hanson’s use of the word “laundered”, Justice Richard Button noted in his judgment on Monday, “There is no satisfactory explanation why Mr Hanson would invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in the business concept of a personal trainer who resided in a foreign country and whom he had known for no more than several weeks.”
Justice Richard Button refused to hand the $702,000 back to Carolan, saying he was not convinced he was “lawfully” entitled to the money.
Carolan was ordered to pay the police costs.
When he was interviewed by police in April 2012, McManus told them the money was his. “It’s pretty obvious though. I gave someone 700 large, and you’ve found someone with 700 large. It’s my 700 large.”
McManus told the police that the cash was part of a business deal where he was repaying the money to Hanson, who had lent him cash as a deposit for a ZZ Top tour but now he wanted it back to fund a Lenny Kravitz tour.
“In essence, I delivered back 700 grand I now need to borrow it again. As quickly as possible,” he said.
He also said; “It’s not the proceeds of crime, it’s the [proceeds] of Andrew McManus.”
McManus made remarkable admissions during his record of interview with police. He has since claimed he was under the influence of morphine and alcohol at the time.
The rock promoter volunteered to police that he had been “under suspicion by the NRL, for making player payments to rugby league players”.
This was a reference to the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal in 2010 when it was revealed that McManus had facilitated extra payments to Storm players including Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
His company, Andrew McManus Presents, would bill the Storm for “promotional” events. The money would be then be channelled by McManus’s company through to several Storm players.
The Storm were later stripped of their points and previous premiership titles.
Neither the players nor McManus were accused of any wrongdoing but McManus told the police of the fallout which included the Australian Tax Office going through him like a dose of salts.
“Although I did make tax payments on each player payment, I never actually got them to sign a full stat dec. So, of those players, they decided that they would fine me…between 30 per cent and the 49 per cent.”
He said he had to pay the ATO $120,000 per player, which totalled $2.4 million. “It crushed my company…Andrew McManus Presents International,” he told police.
Because of his ensuing financial difficulties he said he used friends and associates to help fund tours. McManus mentioned that Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger and his brother Andrew had invested in his concert tours.
He said on five or six occasion, Michael Kroger had “put cash in and then I’ll, you know, fold it out.”
A spokesman for Michael Kroger said it was “a standard financial arrangement”.
McManus also boasted of withholding cash ticket sales from bands such as Fleetwood Mac. “I sold over $700,000 in cash tickets, because people wanted the best tickets, they come to the office, they ring up or email.”
“I’m not sharing it with the band…the cash stays in Andrew McManus’s pocket,” he told police.
McManus also told the police that he had accepted $450,000 in cash from the Coffin Cheaters, an outlaw motor cycle gang who were promoting the Perth leg of the ZZ Top tour.
During his police interview, McManus was accompanied by his lawyer and former partner in a Sydney nightclub, Michael Croke.
Croke, who represented Haeusler in his drug trial, also acted for McManus, Hanson, Haeusler and finally Carolan in the latter’s unsuccessful attempt to have the money returned.
During the case, Haeusler was pacing up and down the corridor outside the Supreme Court in Sydney.
McManus declined to comment for this story. He has issued a media release suggesting revelations about the suitcase and the cash were “gutter journalism by a bottom feeder” and that the articles had been written under “the protection of impossible deformation (sic) laws.”