Ex-strip club boss and allegations of gang’s extortion
AN ex-Gold Coast strip club boss fled a Middle Eastern crime gang which "bashed" him to recover an alleged drug debt or in an extortion attempt - leaving a wealthy Glitter Strip entrepreneur mate in fear of his life, it has been alleged in the Fair Work Commission.
The explosive claims are detailed in a Fair Work Commission decision after a failed unfair dismissal bid by former Toy Box Showgirls director Jimmy Seoud who ran the club for then-friend Sean Buckley's NRA Enterprises.
The FWC decision details the staggering breakdown of a long friendship-turned-business-partnership between Mr Seoud and Ultra Group of Companies executive director Mr Buckley "who splashed cash" at him for years.
Mr Buckley, behind the Ultra Tune car repair and roadside assist empire infamous for controversial TV ads starring Mike Tyson and Charlie Sheen, appointed Mr Seoud to run Toy Box in June 2018. Mr Buckley via NRA had purchased the venue when the pair were banned from Hollywood Showgirls at Surfers Paradise, the commission states.
It was not explained why they were banned from Hollywood but it's understood Mr Buckley had a falling out with Hollywood's owner.
But within 18 months the Toy Box business venture and friendship began to crack after Mr Seoud somehow became entangled in a spat with a Middle Eastern crime gang, the FWC decision states.
In a damning termination letter, dated December 27 - days after Mr Buckley all but ceased Mr Seoud's employment - Mr Buckley claimed his long-time friend had also threatened and attempted to extort him of $350,000.
He also accused him in the termination letter - revealed in the FWC decision - of contract breaches including causing a serious risk to health and safety, drug use or possession at work and being intoxicated at work.
After the relationship soured Mr Seoud's rent-free accommodation in Surfers Paradise - alleged to have been part of his Toy Box salary package - was torn up and he was made to return an $180,000 Mercedes-Benz fitted with the registration MRVEGAS. The car was bought for him as part of a pay rise deal, evidence before the FWC states, with trade at the club set to "explode" due to Mr Seoud's promotion of it.
Mr Buckley, in FWC evidence, alleged Mr Seoud refused to return the vehicle, instead transporting it to Melbourne, where he kept it with a person with links to bikie gangs.
That person then allegedly threatened "there would be consequences" if the company tried to get it back.
Mr Buckley alleges to the FWC that Mr Seoud had become "caught up" in a dispute with Middle Eastern gang members "who were either trying to recover a drug debt owed by Mr Seoud, or threatening the club, demanding protection money".
Mr Seoud - who often goes by the nickname Jimmy Vegas - vehemently denies owing any drug debt, also telling the Bulletin the claims about his work breaches were all "bulls-t" and the gang problem was "all about extortion".
Asked by the Bulletin about the evidence alleged in the FWC against him, he said: "A lot of it was crap. Look, at the end of the day he had (multiple) witnesses, I had no witnesses."
Mr Buckley claimed in evidence at the time of the gang threat he ended up meeting with someone on "two occasions" who demanded about $85,000.
Mr Seoud said in evidence he fled to Bali to "hide out" after he was slapped four times to the face by a gang member at the club on November 23. He claimed Mr Buckley had told him not to return to work.
"(Mr Seoud) stated that he took a suitcase and left everything behind," the FWC decision states.
Footage of the Toy Box reception shows a group of men arguing with Mr Seoud, before one strikes him in the face, then Toy Box assistant manager Tarra Mann-McLean's FWC evidence says.
A Queensland Police Service spokeswoman confirmed a man, 34, was issued a 10-day banning notice in connection to the incident. No formal complaint has been made.
Police sources confirmed there had at some stage been a dispute between Mr Seoud and suspected members of a Middle Eastern crime gang.
Four days later - when Ultra Tune was shooting its latest TV ad with former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson who Mr Seoud greeted for Ultra Tune on her arrival at Brisbane Airport - Mr Seoud said the gang was trying to obtain a car he drove.
Within days, Mr Seoud had fled to Bali, with his FWC evidence claiming he was "assaulted" by the same gang or its associates.
Mr Buckley claimed he hired a bodyguard for himself as he feared for his life, and he also was concerned Mr Seoud was going to be hurt.
"Mr Buckley considered the situation was getting out of control and he was concerned about being further dragged into the dispute between Mr Seoud and the gang," Mr Buckley's evidence claims, adding he and Mr Seoud agreed he needed to walk away from the club. Mr Seoud was offered a $112,000 administrative position at Ultra Tune in Melbourne instead.
But in texts on December 16, when Mr Seoud was asking why his company credit card declined, he rejected the job offer.
"I'm not coming to Melbourne ... It's not safe for me. You and I need to work this exit strategy because Toy Box, with what's happening now, I need to get my name out of Toy Box and I'd prefer to do this between you and I, not third parties. I'm happy to resign as a director and resign as a licensee," Mr Seoud texted, according to messages presented to the FWC.
Mr Buckley texted back: "No need to resign. So you're not going to work in Melbourne?"
Mr Seoud: "I can't until it's deemed safe. I hope you understand the seriousness. I'm not in any state or frame of mind right now as this has affected my mental status. I want to be in sound mind to be able to give 100 per cent and UT (Ultra Tune)."
Mr Seoud said in a text message he felt he had been "pushed out very quickly" and asked to "leave peacefully".
He wanted to keep the Surfers apartment until the second week of January.
Mr Buckley said in a text message to Mr Seoud: "You need to get out of the Gold Coast. You'll be offered a position in Ultra Tune. I'm not pushing you, I'm trying to protect you."
Commissioner Jennifer Hunt notes "it is clear there was a great deal of turmoil in Mr Seoud's life" in late 2019: "He was in fear of his life from a Gold Coast-based gang, the reasons why are either that he owed them a drug debt or the gang was taking the opportunity to extort the club by demanding protection money".
But Commissioner Hunt dismissed Mr Seoud's unfair dismissal claim saying it was filed after the required 21-day time-frame, and his salary was not covered by law as it was above the threshold. His salary amounted to $177,622.50 including the likely cost of rent and car.
"I conclude Mr Seoud had understood he did not have a future with (Toy Box), but he was seeking to slow down the action to remove him from the club and the apartment."
However, she said it was muddied by the offer of employment with Ultra Tune.
Ms Hunt said given the pair's friendship "it is not surprising Mr Buckley was attempting to protect Mr Seoud".
"Mr Buckley had splashed cash at Mr Seoud for around six years," she said.
Ms Hunt also ruled Toy Box job contract agreements submitted, relating to accommodation and the car - contracts which Mr Mr Seoud submitted he had never seen - smelt like a "three-day old rotted
fish head". She ruled Mr Seoud did not sign the documents and his signature could have been forged.
Mr Buckley declined to comment but confirmed his NRA Enterprises still operated the venue, now called Toybox Gentleman's Club, and Ms Mann-McLean was doing "a great job".
Mr Seoud told the Bulletin he would not appeal, had no intention of pressing any charges for being attacked, had relocated to Melbourne to work in construction and was "moving on".
Mr Seoud denied owning any drug debt to a crime gang and said all claims about his Toy Box work performance, involving intoxication, drugs or health and safety risks were "all bulls--t", telling the Bulletin the club had gone downhill since his departure: "All I know is it was all about extortion. They were apparently after Sean and myself. I copped the brunt of it.
"It's just bizarre that I've been thrown as the blame for everything. But it wasn't me, I just go there do my job, and that's what happened to me."
TERMINATION LETTER, DATED DECEMBER 27.
Dear Mr. Seoud
Re: Peter Sean Buckley and Ultra Group of Companies
We act for Mr. Peter Sean Buckley - Executive Director of the Ultra Group of
Companies ("Group"), and for the Group including Ultra Tune Australia Pty Ltd
We are writing to you to clarify some points regarding your lack of understanding as
to the reason(s) your role at the Toybox Gentleman's Club was ultimately terminated
and you were removed from the board of directors on December 17th 2019 whilst you
were holidaying in Bali.
We are instructed that you were informed of, and welcomed, the decision of the board,
stating you no longer wished to work at the Toybox and wished to relocate to
Melbourne. In order to facilitate this relocation to Melbourne, Mr. Buckley offered
you a role at the Company, on a comparable salary with a motor vehicle, working out
of the Melbourne offices under the direction of Mr. Tony and Mr. Rod Cedaro on
December 19th 2019 which you subsequently rejected.
Over the last few weeks you have made representations alluding to your belief that
you have done nothing wrong to warrant termination despite numerous breaches of
your original (Toybox) contract having been clearly elucidated to you. Section 12.5,
thereof clearly discusses grounds for summary termination.
For the record these breaches include (but are not limited to) the following:
12.5: Summary dismissal can occur in circumstances involving serious
misconduct including but not limited to the following:
(a) Causes a serious risk to the health and safety of a person or persons
(c) Bullying, sexual harassment and/or discrimination
(d) Occupational violence
(e) Fraud, theft or gross dishonesty
(g) Being intoxicated at work
(h) Use or possession of drugs at the workplace and breach of lawful management
(i) Wilfully failing or neglecting to perform or carry out your responsibilities,
functions or duties
(j) Conduct which in the opinion of the Employer injures the reputation or
standing of the Employer
The company has found adequate evidence of breaches to each of the above
points to warrant your immediate termination in December.
Mr Seoud rejects all the allegations in the termination letter and any wrongdoing, telling the Bulletin he was vital to the club's success at the time he ran it - and he claimed it had gone "downhill" since he had been dismissed.
Originally published as The businessman, ex-strip club boss and allegations of a crime gang's extortion