POLICE have been called in after funds raised to help “Lion Man” Craig Busch buy back his big-cat park were siphoned off by scammers.
And Sunday News can reveal Busch has received threats of violence as he prepares for a major public appearance in the UK.
Significant funds were stolen from the Big Cat Rescue Trust account before Busch’s advisers discovered the thefts.
Fraudsters had set up a series of illicit direct debits from the trust’s British bank account. They had used account details listed on Busch’s official website for potential donations.
Busch’s spokeswoman confirmed British police had been alerted. The trust would push for thieves to be prosecuted.
The trust’s bank account number and details remain publicly available for donations, but funds are now immediately switched into a more secure account.
“As soon as money hits, it is automatically transferred out. It is like a dummy account, so there is never money in it for people to get to,” the spokeswoman said. “It is a shame you have to go to those lengths.”
The Big Cat Rescue Trust was set up so Busch could either buy back Zion Wildlife Park Gardens, north of Whangarei, from mother Patricia Busch or build a new big-cat park.
“Ultimately it [the trust] is for the future of the cats. And he would prefer that to be at Zion – but we still have to look at various options,” the spokeswoman said.
Patricia provided her son a financial lifeline for the park in 2006 in return for signing over voting rights for his shares in the company. Within a year their relationship had soured, and Patricia dismissed him in November 2008.
Meanwhile, Busch’s spokeswoman confirmed threats had been sent to him ahead of a major public event in Nottingham on November 20 – to also feature “Wolfman” Shaun Ellis, the UK researcher who lives among wolves.
“There are a few people threatening to punch him on the nose… it is really sad and I wish people had better things to do,” Busch’s spokeswoman said.
Earlier this year Busch received several death threats.
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