Australian racing officials are investigating a leading thoroughbred operation after its owner was accused in a US court of being involved in an international money-laundering scheme linked to a fake cryptocurrency.
Phoenix Thoroughbreds, which co-owns Australian group 1 winner Farnan who is trained by Gai Waterhouse, was banned from racing in France earlier this month after a prosecution witness alleged in a New York court that its Dubai-based owner Amer Abdulaziz Salman had stolen $161 million in the OneCoin cryptocurrency scheme.
OneCoin has been described as one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency scams and is estimated to have swindled $7.2 billion from investors across Europe, Africa and Australia.
Investors purchased the virtual coins after being told they would skyrocket in value, but they were never able to cash them out. At least one Australian victim lost $100,000 in retirement funds.
Racing NSW confirmed it was investigating Phoenix Thoroughbreds, while Racing Victoria said it was in contact with international jurisdictions about the allegations.
Phoenix recently pulled out of racing in the UK and released a statement reaffirming its long-term commitment to Australian racing, which Mr Abdulaziz described as “a cornerstone of our business”.
The operation owns more than 100 horses in Australia including the recently retired two-time group 1 winning sprinter Loving Gaby, who clocked up $2.2 million in prize money.
The 2020 Golden Slipper-winning Farnan, trained by Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, was purchased for $550,000. Farnan has won $2.5 million in prize money and is on track for a lucrative spring carnival. Ms Waterhouse and Mr Bott were contacted for comment.
Phoenix has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.