Depending on who you ask in the business community in Australia, Johnson Wang Jen-Tse is a man who inspires admiration and controversy in equal measures. On the one hand, Mr Wang, 38, is referred to as an Australian version of Bill Gates for his 10 years of dogged efforts to build up his empire of computer and Internet businesses from scratch, achieving a combined turnover of about A$1 billion (HK$4.51 billion) in its peak year of 1996 and making him one of the richest and most high-profile Australian Chinese. On the other hand, the bespectacled and hyperactive entrepreneur has attracted intense scrutiny from media and other businessmen, who have raised questions about his business practices, sources of funding and tax arrangements. Those questions have intensified since Beijing-born Mr Wang spun off Internet service provider (ISP) Eisa on the Sydney stock market, raising about A$57 million, and followed up with the A$300 million acquisition in February from MCI Worldcom of OzEmail - Australia's second-largest ISP with a user base of about 480,000, beating Telstra in the process. There is the question of a string of lawsuits involving his companies and the time his townhouse in a leafy Sydney neighbourhood was burned to the ground by an alleged petrol-bomb throwing arsonist in the middle of the night late last year. Mr Wang broke his silence for the first time in recent years in an interview with Business Post in Hong Kong to talk about his personal life and why he is keen to distance himself from Australia, his adopted home. He also mounted a strong defence of his business dealings in Australia and unveiled ambitious plans to build up another Internet empire in the mainland. 'Australians think I have taken advantage of them,' he said. 'So OK, I will go to China to do it again. I will do something bigger to prove my ability.' In the mainland, Mr Wang says, he has invested more than 100 million yuan (HK$93.59 million) in six projects, one of which offers wireless stock-trading services through mobile phones and is planning a stock-market flotation. That project, he boasts, has the potential to become something bigger than any business he has built up in Australia. 'Now I think I am among the top 50 richest Australians, but after that project is listed, I will be among the top three,' he said. 'Many people say, Johnson, you are just lucky. But I don't think I'm lucky.' Mr Wang was born in 1962 to college professor parents and emigrated at 16 to Hong Kong. After studying computer courses for two years at a vocational college in the territory, he landed his first job as a clerk in the human resources department at Hongkong Bank but it lasted just six months. The itch to strike out on his own led him to form a company called Delta in 1981 with two other partners (who later backed out of the venture). He struck his first pot of gold in the following year when he secured a large order from the Chinese Ministry of Education to manufacture Apple II compatible computers. Mr Wang had made his first US$10 million by the age of 23. He decided to retire and travel around the world, putting the bulk of his money into equities. The good days did not last very long however. 'When global stock markets melted down in 1987, I lost most of my money,' he recalled. He decided to start afresh, emigrating to Sydney in 1988 on a business migration scheme. In the same year, he launched Edge, a company with an initial investment of US$100,000 involved in retailing and wholesaling assembled computers and components. About that time, demand for computers was picking up but brand name computer vendors still charged a hefty premium. Mr Wang saw an opportunity to import components from factories in Southeast Asian countries for assembling and distributing at prices much lower than the top brand names. As a result, the company expanded rapidly. 'Another opportunity came when a flood of Hong Kong Chinese emigrated to Australia after June 4, 1989, and many of them have become my loyal clients,' he said. In 1988, the company's first year revenues were A$5 million and by 1996, Edge, which has companies in 31 locations in 12 countries, achieved a combined turnover of A$1 billion, making it Australia's biggest computer assembler and distributor, Mr Wang claims. At the same time, Mr Wang began to take a keen interest in the development of the Internet industry, so much so that he named his newborn son Anderson Wang, after Netscape founder Marc Anderson. In 1996, he set up Eisa to explore Internet business opportunities and later that year, launched an ISP in Melbourne. By the end of 1998, Eisa had more than 15,000 users and at the end of last August, the company went public. This was immediately followed by the acquisition of three more ISPs, which brought the number of users to more than 80,000, making it the fourth-largest ISP in Australia. Then Eisa bought OzEmail, turning it into the second-largest ISP in Australia after Telstra. The acquisition proved a turning point not only in his business fortunes but in his personal life as well. Australia's media have been keen to uncover details about him and his companies, with reports of past misfortunes and mishaps coming back to haunt him. In early 1997, Edge was fined a record NZ$50,000 (about HK$186,550) by a New Zealand district court for selling fake memory chips installed in motherboards imported into the country. In July last year, Microsoft sued Edge to recover outstanding debts owed to the US software giant. Mr Wang and Edge have also counter-sued Microsoft for unspecified damages, the Sydney Morning Herald reported in late February. The fire-bombing incident last November, when Mr Wang and his family were forced to flee the burning house in the middle of the night, has also attracted scrutiny. The case remains unresolved. 'I don't know who did this but somebody sent me a letter and tried to blackmail me on the day when Eisa was listed,' Mr Wang said, declining to elaborate. 'But I must say that it is inevitable for a person like me who has such a big group of companies to have some enemies or to be involved in lawsuits. 'Can you name me one of the big companies which have not been involved in legal disputes one way or another?.' Questions have also been raised about the tax arrangements of his listed company Eisa. According to the Herald, Eisa is ultimately controlled by a shadowy company called Edge (Netherlands Antilles) which was incorporated in Curacao, a Caribbean tax haven. According to the newspaper, the Curacao company does not give out information about its shareholding structure or any other information, due to its protective laws. As a result, nobody really knew who owned the Australia's second-largest ISP. 'That is nonsense,' Mr Wang said. 'I have been telling everybody that I own that Curacao company and I have never tried to hide anything. 'As for the structure, many rich people in Australia arrange their finances in similar ways to take advantage of the tax-free benefits.' He said he felt bitter about the negative publicity surrounding him and his company. 'If I were not a Chinese, I would have been made a hero, another Kerry Pecker,' he said. 'As for the publicity, what can I do? I am a small potato. And I don't want to respond because whatever I say is likely to offend Australians. It is not worth it.'