Sydney businessman given travel permit to pick up a luxury yacht

The superyacht Tranquility, earlier known as the Equanimity, is currently owned by resorts operator Genting Malaysia Bhd which bought it from the Malaysian government in April for US$126 million. Photo: Camper & Nicholsons. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SYDNEY, Aug 22, 2020, SMH. A Sydney businessman with connections to the Morrison government was granted an exemption from the Australia travel ban to pick up a new luxury yacht in Europe, Stuff reported.

Jost Stollmann, the founder of ASX-listed Tyro Payments, was given permission to leave Australia at the end of May and is now waiting out the pandemic on board his yacht in the Greek islands.

German-born Stollmann has lived in Australia since 2004 and became a citizen in January 2011, making him subject to the ban on citizens and permanent residents leaving the country without permission from the government. The travel ban has been in place since March 25.

Stollmann wrote to Double Bay Sailing Club 10 days ago to beg off canteen duty because he was abroad and would only return to Australia once the overseas travel ban was lifted.

In the email, obtained by Sydney Morning Herald, he said he had flown to Trieste, Italy, at the end of June to pick up his “awesome” new 24-metre yacht, SY ALITHIA, which he had then sailed to the “charming and spiritual island of Patmos in the Greek Dodekanese”.

In his postscript, he linked to a picture of the new yacht on the Solaris website.

Stollmann is well-connected in Australian government circles. He was appointed to the FinTech expert advisory group in 2016 and met with then-treasurer Scott Morrison, Greg Hunt in his former role as minister for industry, innovation and science, and former senator Arthur Sinodinos on several different occasions.

Official grounds for an exemption to the travel ban include urgent personal business, compassionate reasons, travel for critical business or industry, travel in the public interest, and the provision of humanitarian or medical aid.

A spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs would not comment on Stollmann’s case. “Decisions by the ABF commissioner to grant exemptions for travel for compassionate and compelling circumstances must be balanced against the government’s intent for imposing the travel ban and the health risks posed to the Australian community by international travellers,” the spokesman said.

Between March 25 and August 16, Australian Border Force received 104,785 travel exemption requests from Australian citizens and permanent residents to leave Australia. Of these, 34,379 were granted a discretionary exemption by the ABF commissioner. In some cases the ABF requested more information, while 10,942 requests received final refusal.

There are also thousands of Australians stranded abroad, unable to get flights because of airline cancellations and the government’s cap on international arrivals. Many temporary visa holders have been denied permission to enter Australia, in some cases leaving citizens separated from non-citizen family members, including children from parents.

Stollmann said his application emphasised the urgent nature of his business in Europe, including picking up the nearly completed yacht and attending to real estate projects. It stated he would stay abroad until 2021, waive his rights to repatriation because he is a dual citizen with children on both continents, and cover any costs of quarantine.

Stollmann said he disagreed with the “incomprehensible and intolerable” travel ban because it violated Australians’ fundamental right to freedom of movement, and he was concerned there had been little public debate or judicial due process. He said he was a “proud” Australian who had never regretted moving to this country but warned “autocratic impulses are a threat to our democracy”.

“There is no right to restrict any Australian to visit his dying loved one in his last hour, to witness marriages and births with the nearest ones, to pursue educational and business opportunities abroad or whatever an Australian in his right deems essential, when the biosecurity protection can be delivered by compulsory testing and quarantine measures,” Stollmann said. “The blanket overseas travel ban is not reasonable, not necessary and not proportionate.”

Stollmann said he applied for an exemption to the travel ban in the same way as any other citizen. His first application in early May went unanswered, while the second was approved on May 29. He contacted the electoral office for his local MP, Liberal Dave Sharma, and was told they could not influence the decision but would inquire on its status.

Stollmann was a government minister in Germany before quitting politics and spending two years sailing the world with his wife and children in a 40-metre yacht, also called Alithia, almost 20 years ago. In 2003, they struck a reef in Fiji, went to Sydney for repairs, fell in love with the city and later decided to emigrate.

Tyro Payments, which provides EFTPOS and banking services, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2019 and Stollmann is now a non-executive director. Tyro chairman David Thodey sits on Morrison’s National Covid-19 Commission (Advisory Board).

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