ANGER OVER PENNISI PENALTY
By BRIAN BIGG firstname.lastname@example.org WARREN SCANLON is outraged. And the 70-year-old Ballina pensioner gets angrier as he describes his reaction to the penalty handed down to local multi-millionaire businessman Santo Pennisi.
"It's peanuts," Mr Scanlon says. On Tuesday, the Federal Court in Queensland fined the boss of Ballina Petroleum almost half-a-million dollars over 28 offences against the Trade Practices Act.
The court was told Pennisi ordered tankers to deliver unleaded petrol to bowsers labelled as premium at 11 BP service stations in Ballina and in Northern NSW.
The scam ran for three years, earning Pennisi about $150,000.
Mr Scanlon was one of the first motorists to notice something was amiss.
For two years he filled up his Mercedes-Benz exclusively at the BP in North Ballina. He was happy to pay the extra for 98 octane fuel, but couldn't work out why he was getting fewer kilometres per dollar.
"Every pension day I would fill up at the BP and kept a record of it," Mr Scanlon said.
"One day I even spoke to Mr Pennisi, who was grumbling about how a newly-opened Caltex service station would send him broke.
"He must have been ripping me off at the pump even then." Mr Scanlon is one of 'a substantial number' of people who will now proceed with a class action suit against Pennisi.
Solicitor Ben Robin, from Somerville Laundry Lomax solicitors in Lismore, says the verdict in Brisbane strengthens the looming civil claim against Pennisi.
"There is a higher standard of proof in criminal proceedings," he said. "Claimants are still coming in."
Mr Robin said once the last of them had filled out the paperwork the case would be filed in the Federal Court 'some time in the New Year'.
Mr Robin pointed out the case was not against the service stations involved, but against the distributor.
When contacted by The Star yesterday, Mr Pennisi declined to comment, but held open the possibility he would give his side of the story soon.
"I'll call you when I can talk to you," he said.