Naylor's Canberra
freshly squeezed pulp noir

Friday, November 28, 2003  

Instalment 36: pages 148 - 151 [Elliot makes some legal inquiries about Jeremy Ryder]

I dropped in at the office to ask Chris about getting some ASIC searches done. Chris, a member of the registry team, is a marvellous useful chap to know. No matter how shady or respectable your business, there’s a lot of information you have to register, and a lot of it is public if you know where to look. A whole, bewildering alphabet of agencies (ASIC, ASX, OFT, LTO, ACTPLA and IP Australia) contain reams of useful information. But Chris was the font of all really useful knowledge: knowing where to go to get what information, who to ask, what forms to fill out and what it will cost you to get an answer. He has the improbable title of “Principal Information Resources Assistant”. Chris is a Maori, and built along the lines of the proverbial outdoor toilet. His desk was behind the mail counter down the hall from the Library. I went and stuck my head in.

“I need to know who owns a business name,” I said to him.

“Huh,” he nodded, “local, New South Wales or what?”

“Local, I think.”

“Registrar-General’s Office,” he said. “But you should check it out on the ASIC site first.”

“Why’s that?”

“ASIC has a lot of that company-type information hooked up. You’ll be able to get the basics, tell where the name is registered, as a company or business name or both. Saves missing anything. Then if it is a business name, I’ll got to the RG’s and get the owner’s name for you.”

“But we can’t get that information out of ASIC?” I had a vision of the Securities and Investment Commission as a monolithic power, holding all the information about all Australian companies everywhere.

“Business names are a state government thing. The name might not be attached to a company, either. No company, no ASIC record.”

“Oh, right,” I said, nodding and feeling a bit sheepish. It was obvious really, ASIC was a Federal Government body with jurisdiction over corporations, but not businesses run by private individuals. One of those quirks of constitutional law. So, obviously, it made sense to leave business-name registration as a local issue. “Look, I’ll check out ASIC, but could I get you to do the local search anyway?”

Chris slapped a photocopied form down in front of me on his counter. “Got a file number for this?” he asked.

“It’s kind of a personal enquiry. Tell me where the office is and I’ll take the form over later.”

Chris shrugged: “Just give me the cash. I’ve got to go out and pick up some other searches anyway. I’ll be back before lunch.”

“Thanks, that’d be great.” I hurriedly filled out the form, whistled at the search fee stamped in its top corner and dug some cash out of my wallet for Chris. He gave my form an uninquisitive look, just checking I’d filled it in right.
“Delicious Serpents, huh,” he grunted. “Look, check out ASIC and get back to me if you don’t need it done. No sense wasting money.”

“Sure,” I said, “look, give me another form. I’d like to know every business name registered in the ACT to a company called Charcot Co, and a man called Jeremy Ryder.”
Impassively, Chris slapped more paperwork down in front of me, which I filled out and returned with more of David’s money.

“First thing before lunch,” he repeated.

I nodded, I’d still have plenty of time to check out Jeremy Ryder’s conference venue in the afternoon. I went to wait in the library and catch up on neglected filing duties. I set about tracking down the loose-leaf volumes and began the tedious business of inserting the replacement pages. At least it kept my hands occupied and my brain sufficiently numbed out for a while.

Then I remembered the calls I needed to make to Katoomba and Melbourne, let alone to Danielle and my grandfather. Suddenly, I had way too much on my plate, it was going to be a question of priorities. I reached Angela’s answering machine in Melbourne and left a message asking her to call me urgently on David’s mobile – there was no point sugar-coating things now, so I mentioned that Marina was missing and things looked bad.

Armed with the address for the family-holiday Blue Mountains cottage Stephen had given me, I called the Katoomba visitor’s information centre, which was able to tell me the name of the owner. I got a little old lady on the phone who assured me the cottage was available at present, and had been all week. I asked if there’d been a Marina Carmichael staying recently, as she was the one who had recommended it to me, and I had the impression she went up quite a lot. The old biddy sound genuinely puzzled, and didn’t recognise Marina’s description either. That settled it for me. If Marina was in the Blue Mountains, it wasn’t at the old family retreat. Made sense, it’s the first place her Dad might have thought to look.

When Chris returned with the search results I hadn’t yet logged on to the ASIC site. My eyes skittered anxiously through the papers, moving too fast to take in all the details. It boiled down to this. Trading names presently registered to Jeremy Ryder: zero. Trading names registered to Charcot Co (sole owner and director one Jeremy Ryder): six current names – all, it seemed, actively trading. There was Yarralumla Day Trading Inc, Short-order Office Supplies, SOS (same business), High Trees Contractor Services, Unchaperoned, Butterflies and Delicious Serpents itself. Which apparently made Ryder’s little video collection trade samples, not personal.

Just to confirm my thinking, I tapped Delicious Serpents into the yellow pages online, and it brought up the Fyshwick address of an “adult entertainment” complex. Bloody hell, I thought, what’s a one-man stockbroking show doing with a sideline in retail pornography? In retrospect the scale of my naiveté was rather touching, if the consequences hadn’t been so severe. And I hadn’t even put “Unchaperoned” or “Butterflies” through the yellow pages yet.


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