HIGH-profile Queensland punters including Channel 7 personality Pat Welsh and two former Brisbane Lord Mayors have had their betting account details stolen in an alleged multimillion-dollar betting scam.

Scores of ordinary Queenslanders are also believed to have lost tens of thousands of dollars after investing in the pyramid 'punters club'.

Channel Seven sports commentator Pat Welsh. Pic Annette Dew
Channel Seven sports commentator Pat Welsh. Pic Annette Dew

Identities including Welsh, former Brisbane Lord Mayors Graham Quirk and Jim Soorley, ex-Wallabies coach John Connolly, race caller David Fowler, developer David Devine, prominent bookmakers and a leading Gold Coast businessman were potential targets of the alleged scam.

A one-time NRL star, now living in Queensland, was believed to be involved in the club which was worth $5 million and roped in 150 investors.

Sources say the alleged principal, who has been hit with a string of fraud charges by NSW detectives, had boasted of paying $50,000 for the personal records of well-heeled punters from a corporate bookmaker insider.

Information including names, email addresses, phone numbers and betting turnover was allegedly used to draw up a hit list of potential investors.

A former NRL player, now living in Queensland, was believed to be partners in the scheme.

Identities spoken to by the Sunday Mail said they had not been approached to invest but some were shocked and upset that their betting details had been leaked.

Former Lord Mayor Graham Quirk. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Walker
Former Lord Mayor Graham Quirk. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Walker

"It's very disturbing and I'm not overly happy about it," Welsh said.

"It's no state secret that I like a punt, although I'm not a very big or successful one. But I'd never get involved in one of these get-rich-quick schemes. They're a waste of time and a waste of money."

Mr Soorley said he was 'horrified' his private details had been leaked but had not been approached to invest in the scheme.

"Most punters would smell a rat when it comes to these dodgy betting schemes," he said.

Mr Quirk said he had been approached to become a shareholder in a horse breeding operation about a year ago but not a betting scheme.

"I'm not a big gambler by any means," he said.

"What's happened is certainly a breach of privacy . I guess what they were looking for (by bringing in identities) was credibility."

Connolly said he had not heard of the scheme and was not concerned, saying; "If you believe in privacy these days, you believe in the tooth fairy."

Former Wallabies coach John Connolly. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
Former Wallabies coach John Connolly. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

A southeast Queensland licensed club boss who tipped more than $150,000 into the scheme said he was a rookie gambler who was lured in by friends.

"They were getting good returns every week and it seemed like it was pretty legitimate," he said.

"We were getting about 5 per cent a week, which was much better than money in the bank. "Some people even quit their jobs (to become full-time punters) and were spending all their winnings. Some of those would have ended up with big losses."

The man said he met the scheme's promoter who had hired a high-rise office in the Brisbane CBD to 'explain how it was all working'.

"He was very smooth, a very nice guy - someone you would trust and have a beer and a chat with," he said.

Former Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley. Pic Darren England.
Former Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley. Pic Darren England.

"He was well-dressed and very knowledgeable about racing. He put across a very, very good image.

"I've seen a lot of shady people in my time and he certainly seemed like a genuine bloke."

The man said he received dividends for about six months before they stopped 'and we knew we were in trouble'.

"Towards the end, a meeting (of investors) was organised. He (the promoter) tried to blame one of the other guys (in the scheme) for causing all the problems and not passing on money but that was all rubbish," he said.

The man said he lost about 20 to 30 per cent of his stake but one investor had lost around $500,000.

"It was quite good fun when things were going well but it's the old story - if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is," he said.

"I do feel stupid about it but it was money I could afford to lose. I feel sorry for some of the others.

"I'll never become involved in anything like this again. I'm quite happy to make my money in other ways. Through hard work is the best way."

The man said he had given information to police.

Originally published as High-profile gamblers' accounts exposed in $5m fraud


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