Melbourne-based website hosting company, Pacific Blue Online, has stopped offering Swiss bank accounts over the Internet following intervention from financial regulators.
However, company director, Brett Anderson, said he hoped to restart his business again next month, offering more traditional web hosting services such as domain name registration, website design and e-commerce.
Anderson claimed he began offering Swiss bank accounts earlier this year after being approached by customers.
“They were business owners, a lot of different people," he said. "We did not have any idea of what they wanted to do with the money."
For $150, he would forward the customer details to a Swiss bank, which he declined to name. The bank would then contact the customer. Anderson also would not reveal how many customers had used Pacific Blue Online’s Swiss bank account service.
He did admit that online Swiss bank accounts were a novel service for a four-month-old web hosting company.
“We thought that ... [so] we contacted every single authority in Australia," Anderson said. "They said there was nothing wrong in this service. We had these clients; that’s why we started this service.”
However, when Anderson advertised the Pacific Blue service on April 21 in Melbourne's MX newspaper, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) became interested and began an investigation.
ASIC then obtained injunctive orders by consent from the Federal Court of Australia preventing Brett Anderson & Co Pty Ltd from offering to set up Swiss bank accounts for customers.
“ASIC said [we were] not legitimate enough to provide these services on the website,” Anderson said.
According to ASIC, Anderson’s company, trading as Pacific Blue Online, was offering a financial service without holding an Australian Financial Services Licence.
Anderson and fellow director, John Terlato of Dandenong North, Victoria, were ordered by the Federal Court to halt the service and provide customer and service-related details to ASIC, orders they have since complied with.
In addition, ASIC also claimed that advertising published in MX and on Pacific Blue Online’s website contained dishonest and deceptive statements about the Swiss Bank accounts.
It further claimed Anderson was disqualified from managing a corporation as a result of previous criminal convictions.
Anderson said he has taken down the company website and would no longer offer Swiss bank accounts because it was “too risky”. But he hoped to restore the company’s other services next month.
“We have to negotiate a deal with ASIC,” he said.
Anderson said his company maintained a head office in Florida, operating other US businesses.
He declined to identify who operated/owned them or what services they provided.
The case against Pacific Blue Online comes back before the courts on July 2.