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News

1. John Risley says he was swindled out of 10 million Euros

John Risley

Nova Scotia billionaire John Risley says a fast-talking man posing as a Saudi oil tycoon swindled him out of 10 million Euros.

The allegations are outlined in a lawsuit filed in Supreme Court yesterday. In the lawsuit, Risley says that in January 2017 he was introduced to Issam Alzahed, a Saudi national and Canadian citizen living in Bedford on Rochdale Place, a small cul-de-sac just up the hill from Risley’s Clearwater Seafoods on the Bedford Highway. Alzahed is sometimes spelled Alzahid or Al Zahid.

Alzahed told Risley that he was “a principal and controlling mind” of the Alzahid Group of Companies, which “engaged in various and extensive operations in a number of industries including the construction, oil and gas, technology, and investment industries, and that it employed over 40,000 people.”

Alzahed also claimed that the Alzahid Group included companies called the Alzahed Company (IAC) and the Alzahid Arabian Technology and Services Corporation (AATS), albeit Risley now says that “the actual existence of IAC cannot be confirmed” and “the existence of AATS cannot be confirmed.”

In the months after they met, says Risley, he and Alzahed had a string of informal meetings, in which Alzahed “held himself out … as being a person of great wealth and vast international business experience and influence.”

In the summer of 2017, says Risley, Alzahed proposed that Risley’s private, family-owned holding company — Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. (CFFI) — enter into a business deal with the Alzahid Group. Alzahed told Risley that one of the companies he owned, IAC, had purchased 50 per cent of the shares of an Austrian company called TDE Group GmbH for 60 million Euros; Alzahed proposed that Risley buy half of that stake — or 25 per cent of TDE — for 30 million Euros.

TDE is a legitimate company that provides technology to oil companies. In November 2017, Risley and Alzahed travelled to Austria to check out TDE’s headquarters. As a result, says Risley, “CFFI considered the TDE Group to be an attractive investment opportunity.”

The following month, Alzahed prepared a Share Purchase Agreement (SPA), which Risley signed. The SPA “expressly represented that IAC had already acquired 50% of the issued shares of the TDE Group for a purchase price of 60 million Euros,” and Alzahed also verbally claimed he had made the purchase. Risley signed the SPA on December 7, 2017.

Under the terms of the SPA, Risley was to make two payments of 15 million Euros to Alzahed’s company, but the dates for those payments were not established.

However, some time after Risley signed the SPA, Alzahed said he had only put up 30 million Euros for the TDE purchase, and he “urgently required” Risley to put up the first 15 million Euro payment so the sale could be completed.

“In response to Mr. Alzahed’s vigorous pushing,” CFFI transferred five million Euros to Alzahed on January 15, 2018. Alzahed asked that the money be sent to AATS (and not IAC, the company he previously said had purchased the TDE shares). On March 13, 2018, CFFI made a second five million Euro transfer to AATS.

“Subsequent to the aforementioned transfers of funds by CFFI, and as a result of Mr. Alzahed’s style and nature of conducting business negotiations generally, CFFI began to develop concerns and suspect that Mr. Alzahed’s wealth and international business experience and influence were not as Mr. Alzahed had represented them to be,” reads the lawsuit.” CFFI initiated extensive international inquiries into Mr. Alzahed and the Alzahid Group, the results of which caused CFFI’s concerns to increase significantly.”

As an editorial aside, I note that Risley is the kind of person who takes a few hours out of his day to go to small claims court to contest a $2,965.62 bill from a tradesman whose car was damaged on Risley’s property, but who also transfers 10 million to a supposed Saudi oil tycoon without first doing background research on the man.

Anyway, after finally looking into Alzahed and his supposed businesses, Risley says he confronted Alzahed and Alzahed admitted that he hadn’t purchased any TDE stock at all. Moreover, says Risley, “CFFI has subsequently learned that IAC is a fictitious, non-existent entity.”

And Alzahed refuses to return Risley’s 10 million Euros.

Risley is represented by Michelle Awad and Michael Blades of McInnes Cooper. Risley himself or one or both of his lawyers will appear at court on December 20 to ask a judge to set a hearing date on his lawsuit.

Risley says that in support of his allegations, he will provide affidavits from himself; Clearwater board member Stan Spavold; Gerhard Thonhauser, the founder and chair of the board of TDE; and someone named John Livingstone, who I can’t further identify.

The allegations contained in the lawsuit have not been tested in court, and Alzahed has not submitted a defence.

2. Lahey report

Bill Lahey

“How should Nova Scotia manage one of its key public resources — the forests — to make them healthier and more economically productive?” asks Jennifer Henderson:

Three months ago, the province received a report with 45 recommendations on how to achieve those goals. The Independent Review of Forest Practices In Nova Scotia was authored by Bill Lahey, a lawyer and former deputy minister of the Department of Environment before he signed on as president of University of King’s College.

Despite the extensive report, the government so far has taken no action on it, nor has it said what it will do about it.

Click here to read “The Lahey report on managing Nova Scotia forests was published three months ago; when is the government going to act on it?”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

3. Dodoname

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has filed a $18,058.81 claim against Dodoname, Inc, a now-defunct tech company that the agency had extended a loan to in February 2015. Oddly, ACOA reports the loan as totalling $100,000, but the claim says it was for just $25,747.84. In any event, Dodoname made payments on the loan until it defaulted in June 2017. ACOA wants a judgment for the unpaid portion of the loan, plus interest.

If a company supported by ACOA goes belly-up, you can bet that it was previously plugged by Peter Moreira, and sure enough, Moreira touted the company in 2014:

Dodoname is a software-as-a-service product that helps consumers by addressing one of their greatest worries about e-commerce — that by providing an email address and other details, someone will hack their account, access their bank account or sell their data to spammers.

On the other side of the e-commerce relationship, businesses don’t want customers’ names, email addresses or phone numbers because there is a cost to protecting it. But they do want to know their customers’ demographics (age, gender, city of residence, etc.) and their likes and dislikes. Such things, which Dodoname refers to as the customer’s persona, are essential in targeted marketing.

What Dodoname does is give the corporations the details they want about customers and allows them to target their marketing, but it does not surrender customers’ personal details.

When consumers sign up with Dodoname, they leave an assumed name and information on their persona. When they use Dodoname to sign up for other websites, such as e-commerce sites, the system assigns the consumer a random email address for each site they enlist on. The corporation that owns the site is the only one who can use that email address to contact the consumer, so the information cannot be sold to spammers.

That’s an idea that sounds good in theory, but obviously corporations don’t want to be inhibited from selling email addresses to spammers, so…

4. Dispensary raid

Police raided the GreenTree Dispensary on the Bedford Highway yesterday:

Police have charged three people after a search of an illegal cannabis dispensary in Bedford yesterday.

Shortly after 11 a.m., the Drug Unit of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division executed a Controlled Drug and Substance Act Search Warrant at GreenTree Dispensary located at 1274 Bedford Highway. Investigators seized over 3 kg of cannabis, cannabis resin, 360 cannabis edibles and a knife.

A 40-year-old Dartmouth man has been charged with possession for the purpose of distribution and possession for the purpose of selling contrary to the Cannabis Act and possession of a weapon.  A 30-year-old woman and a 20-year-old woman, both of Bedford, have been charged with possession for the purpose of distribution and possession for the purpose of selling contrary to the Cannabis Act.

All three will appear in Halifax Provincial Court at a later date.

5. Suspicious package non-update

Yesterday, I asked the police what was in that “suspicious package” they blew up in Burnside on Monday. This morning, po-po spokesperson John McLeod got back to me: “The incident is still under investigation. The is no further information to provide at this time.”

I don’t understand the secrecy. If it was something with a bunch of wires leading from a wind-up alarm clock to a stick of dynamite (that’s how that works, right?), surely the wannabe bomber already knows about it, and telling the public it was dangerous! wouldn’t inhibit the investigation. If, on the other hand, it was a bundle of dirty laundry someone accidentally dropped on the way to mom’s house, couldn’t we all just laugh about it and move on to Belsnickeling?

6. Belsnickeling

This bit of hilarity had been around a couple of days before, but @emilydawnlove made it go viral yesterday:

https://twitter.com/emilydawnlove/status/1065613337877250049

Ben Cousins at CTV was one of several reporters who followed up on the story:

An article in Porter Airlines’ in-flight magazine indicating Nova Scotians go “Belsnickeling around the icy streets of their hometowns” has people online questioning if the holiday tradition even exists.

The article, which appears in the latest edition of “re:porter,” outlines obscure holiday traditions from Atlantic Canada, including that of Belsnickeling, where a group of people dress in Santa costumes with bells and chains, visit their neighbours and have them guess the identity of each Belsnickel. Those who get it right are rewarded with a piece of cake and a hot drink.

The Belsnickel is a German character similar to Santa that is popular in Pennsylvania Dutch communities. The character was made popular during a holiday episode of The Office.

According to the article, Germans brought Belsnickeling to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and “most Nova Scotians” now participate in the tradition.

“The problem, of course, is that few people in Halifax seem to have even heard of the allegedly ‘age-old’ custom, much less practise it,” adds Laura Fraser, the very good former Chronicle Herald reporter who has somehow ended up at CBC (when did that happen?):

There was, in fact, a time when a small group of Nova Scotians followed the tradition. 

German immigrants who settled on this province’s South Shore in the Lunenburg area recall it happening regularly until about the 1960s.

That history was mentioned in an unsourced section of a Wikipedia article, which the Porter magazine author said inspired the piece.

“Even though we realize that this is a tradition of the Lunenburg area and not of Halifax, strictly speaking, we thought that this unusual fact might be of interest to anyone travelling to Porter’s main Nova Scotia destination,” Annick Weber wrote in an email.

The tradition remains alive in the memories of Lunenburgers, but it’s no longer widely practised, according to local genealogist Hugh Corkum.

Lillian Keeping, 77, whose husband is organizing the town’s Christmas parade, says there won’t be any Belsnickeling involved in it. She donned the costumes herself as a girl, but says her own children — now 51 and 53 — never went out to follow in her footsteps.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thesis Defence, Computer Science (Friday, 9:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Ehsan Sherkat will defend his ​​thesis, “​​Interactive Text Analytics for Document Clustering.”

Of Bricks and Blood: Institutional Conscience Objections to MAID and Abortion (Friday, 12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Daphne Gilbert from the University of Ottawa will speak.

Coherent Nonlinear Optical Raman Microscopy: Labelfree, Chemicalspecific Imaging for Biology, Mineralogy and Material Science (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Albert Stolow from the University of Ottawa will speak.

Reasoning on data and algorithmic bias: explaining the network effect in opinion dynamics and the training data bias in machine learning (Friday, 2:30pm, in the auditorium named after a bank, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Fosca Gianotti from the University of Pisa will speak. Her abstract:

Data science is creating novel means to study the complexity of our societies and to measure, understand and predict social phenomena. My  seminar gives an overview of recent research at the Knowledge Discovery (KDD) Lab in Pisa within the SoBigData.eu research infrastructure, targeted at explaining the effects of data and algorithmic bias in different domains, using both data-driven and model-driven arguments. First, I introduce a model showing how algorithmic bias instilled in an opinion diffusion process artificially yields increased polarisation, fragmentation and instability in a population. Second, I focus on the urgent open challenge of how to construct meaningful explanations of opaque AI/ML black-box decision systems, introducing the local-to-global framework for the explanation of ML classifiers. The two cases show how the combination of data-driven and model-driven  interdisciplinary research has a huge potential to shed new light on complex phenomena like discrimination and polarisation, as well as to  explain how decision making black-boxes, both human and artificial, actually work.  I conclude with an account of the open data science paradigm pursued in SoBigData.eu Research Infrastructure and its importance for interdisciplinary data driven science that impacts societal challenges.

Liturgy, Music, and Hildegard of Bingen’s Chant Repertory (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Jennifer Bain will speak.


In the harbour

15:00: Dimitra C, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
15:30: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Hamburg, Germany
16:00: Tongala, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
16:00: Cielo di Salerno, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea


Footnotes

Don’t forget our subscription party Sunday. Here’s our Facebook event for the, er, event:

Come celebrate with us! Investigative journalist Linden MacIntyre joins us as guest speaker. He’ll be announced by former CBC radio host/ spice merchant Costas Halavrezos. Music by Museum Pieces. We’ll have Halifax Examiner swag, cake, and a surprise or two.

That’s Sunday, November 25, 4-7pm at Bearly’s. Free entry for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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12 Comments

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  1. Belsnickeling was a thing on the South Shore once, and is not quite the same as numbering. The writer did not mix up her Halifaxes (I asked her) but she did conflate past and present, and Lunenburg County with all of Nova Scotia.

  2. I’m sure there must be some combination of Federal and Provincial government grants to cover Mr. Risley’s predicament. There usually is.

  3. Can we find out which account Risley took the 10 million Euros from and tax it – or take it all in lieu of taxes he has avoided, or as pay in lieu of the royalties he should have paid for the use of our common resource? If it were not for the fact that the money should really be in the province’s general fund, this would be hilarious.

  4. I’m not a big businessman or international financier but surely some alarm bells must have rung for Risley when they visited TDE? Unless they only sat in the parking lot and assured themselves that the company existed. If they had a meeting with this Thonhauser, surely when faced with the information that one of Alazed’s subsidiaries had acquired a 50% interest, he would have at least said, “wait, what?”

  5. I’m shocked a Nigerian prince hasn’t hit Risley up. Or maybe he has and he’s just too ashamed to go to court over it.

  6. North America is a culture destroying blender. The Office is funny – and yes, I always identified much more with Dwight than Jim – but as goofy as things like Belsnickeling are, the absolute cultural wasteland created by decades of our cultural elites mocking and deconstructing seemingly everything is far worse. There’s no way back – we’re all too cynical to wholeheartedly start doing stuff like that again. It is ironic that in the final analysis, liberal capitalism was far more culturally destructive – despite being officially culturally ambivalent – than communism, which had an explicitly stated goal of eradicating existing cultures and replacing them with a new ‘ideal’ one. The Romans should have just made funny plays about the Christians instead of using them as lion bait.

    At least we can get smartphones with 4K screens now so its not all bad though.

  7. Belsnickeling is actually a thing in Halifax, Pennsylvania.
    they have a Facebook page for the annual event and everything.

    so yah, it happens in Halifax, just not this one.