Turbulent times for luxury jet operator

Mr Geoffery Cassidy and Ms Miranda Tang at their marriage solemnisation in 2011. The remaining shareholders of Zetta Jet have filed a lawsuit against Mr Cassidy, Ms Tang and Singapore-based Asia Aviation Holdings, of which the couple are both directo
Mr Geoffery Cassidy and Ms Miranda Tang at their marriage solemnisation in 2011. The remaining shareholders of Zetta Jet have filed a lawsuit against Mr Cassidy, Ms Tang and Singapore-based Asia Aviation Holdings, of which the couple are both directors.ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Zetta Jet accuses ex-managing director based in Singapore of misappropriating some $41m

An uncertain fate looms over luxury jet operator Zetta Jet which has offices in the United States, as well as one near Seletar Airport.

The firm has accused its former Singapore-based managing director of misappropriating nearly $41 million to splurge on luxury yachts, cars and flying company jets for free.

But Mr Geoffery Cassidy insists his spending was justified because it was done to further Zetta Jet's business.

Last month, the firm's newly appointed chief executive Michael Maher filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in a US court on behalf of US-based shareholders.

Three days later, the rest of the Zetta Jet shareholders who hold a 64 per cent stake, including Mr Cassidy, filed an injunction to stop the proceedings in the US. The injunction was eventually honoured by the Supreme Court in Singapore, which bars further steps relating to bankruptcy proceedings.

In a statement to The Straits Times, Zetta Jet said that its debt restructuring had been "necessitated by the company's recent discovery that former Singapore-based managing director Geoffery Cassidy had misappropriated funds from the company and committed other fraudulent activities".

The company said normal business operations would continue through the restructuring process and beyond.

The US-based shareholders, Mr James Seagrim and Mr Stephen Walter, have also filed a lawsuit against Mr Cassidy, his wife Miranda Tang and Singapore-based Asia Aviation Holdings, of which the couple are both directors.

When ST visited Zetta Jet's local office at Seletar Aerospace Park on Sept 28, a male employee said Mr Cassidy "isn't here any more".

US court documents allege that the Australia-born Mr Cassidy had used company funds for personal purchases, took free transportation and accepted kickbacks from aircraft acquisitions. By doing so, he was said to have "wrongfully deprived Zetta Jet and/or Zetta Jet USA, Inc of at least US$20 million to US$30 million (S$41 million)".

Other accusations include his alleged unauthorised use of company funds to purchase and renovate personal property including two yachts called Dragon Pearl and Nyota, valued between US$3 million and US$10 million. He had allegedly bought three luxury cars in Singapore estimated to cost between US$2 million and US$3 million.

In February, Mr Cassidy supposedly used a company jet, its crew services and fuel to fly him and his friends from Singapore to Melbourne. It was estimated that he had used company jets totalling 300 hours of flight time or its equivalent of "at least US$3 million of company assets".

In his affidavit, Mr Cassidy maintains his innocence, saying that everything he had done was for the good of Zetta Jet. In an August board meeting in Hong Kong, Mr Cassidy said he met other stakeholders to discuss a rescue plan. Instead, he was supposedly treated with a "great degree of hostility".

He said: "Testament to the fact is that I voted in favour of the resolution appointing an independent professional to conduct an audit and for the reporting of any wrongdoing to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and the Commercial Affairs Department of Singapore."

Mr Cassidy explained that he had flown on Zetta Jets always for business purposes. "As managing director of a luxury airline business that catered to celebrities and high-net-worth individuals, I would take the jets to meet clients, suppliers, view demonstrations and the like."

He also admitted a yacht was purchased and the funds came from Zetta Jet. But it was "set off" against money allegedly owed to him from Zetta Jet Singapore and its subsidiaries. "It was necessary for Zetta to be perceived as an uber high-end private airline and the yacht was one of the tools that I had used in this regard," he said. ST was unable to contact Mr Cassidy for comment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2017, with the headline 'Turbulent times for luxury jet operator'. Print Edition | Subscribe