The liquidator of a company that had been operated by a former Gold Coast pastor and solicitor as a form of “Ponzi” scheme that’s alleged to have defrauded investors of millions while using these funds to lead an extravagant lifestyle is now intent on pursuing civil actions against the pastor, his family and the company auditor.
Creditors met in Sydney yesterday to be met with a report by Bruce Gleeson of Jones Partners, the Sydney chartered accountants acting as liquidator of RVP Group Limited. The report detailed how former Mermaid Beach pastor Glenn Philip Duker, 38, entered into various property scams allowing him to buy and sell million dollar homes that has left an estimated shortfall of $8-10 million in RVP’s company accounts. One prominent victim is former AFL player Craig O’Brien who now lives on the Gold Coast.
However, there are even more victims tied into other investor schemes independent of RVP’s structure that some estimates have put as high as an additional $30 million from a multitude of corporate shells set up by Duker. The pastor declared himself bankrupt in January, and is now believed to be again practicing law in Melbourne.
“Now he’s declared his bankruptcy, he can still be held to account for certain breaches of the companies act that took place, that would be of interest to ASIC let alone anyone else,” Gleeson told Crikey.
Gleeson says although victims are scattered across Australia, most of RVP’s affairs involved investors from Queensland, particularly the Gold Coast. Duker entered into agreements with mostly individuals, principally mum and dad investors who were procured by way of joint ventures or preference shares in shell companies.
Despite RVP never reporting a profit during its existence, Gleeson told creditors that not only was the company trading while insolvent but particularly from 2006 onwards the company was “defaulting on more and more” of the regular interest payment investors were meant to receive.
“RVP operated much like a Ponzi scheme,” Gleeson said. “To the extent that at some point in time in these Ponzi schemes — when the music stops there are creditors that are inevitably owed money because schemes like this always rely on the influx of new money.”
Gleeson confirmed to Crikey that ASIC is also mounting its own investigations into the conduct of RVP and that of its directors, which included Duker’s wife Lorilea, and brother Mathew. The role of Melbourne-based company auditor Allan Walker is also very much in the sights of Gleeson, and bound to figure prominently in ASIC’s ongoing investigations.
Glenn Duker moved to the Gold Coast seven years ago where he undertook conveyance work, while also setting himself up in property development from 2002. In the following years he persuaded investors, including members of the Pentecostal Revival Centres International (RCI) church at Mermaid Beach where he became pastor, to enter into investor agreements with him.
RCI has been frequently likened to a cult after being founded in Victoria in 1958, and now claims some 300 chapters globally. Its fundamentalist followers believe members must speak in tongues to be saved.
Duker was devout in following an extra-curricular form of personal saving outside the church — Gleeson estimates there are around 30 individual victims caught out by the activities of RVP. While Duker was finally dismissed from his pastoral post after several years of complaints, an earlier 2006 ASIC investigation failed to halt his continuing scams, resulting in many millions more being lost by his victims. His brother continues to be a RCI pastor.
As Gleeson explained to Crikey, he’s found the way RCI has been a most reluctant witness in assisting his examination deeply disturbing. RCI has also publicly defended Duker as another innocent victim of the GFC:
I think what this has shown to me is that you have a scenario where it’s convenient for RCI to blame external and global factors on the failure of a company when really those things weren’t in play at the time. Certainly the evidence they gave under examination I believe was inconsistent.
It gets back to this situation where what needs to be established is that once they were on notice that Glenn Duker, who was in a position of a high level of trust being a head pastor of the Gold Coast chapter — once they were on notice that he was potentially using that position to obtain monies for the activities of RVP — did they satisfactorily deal with the concerns being raised?
Even to this day the reluctance of them to deal with the overwhelming information before them has been a little bit staggering, and while I don’t know the internal policies of how they deal with pastors or members where complaints have been made, there is a question mark put over whether they have acted on a timely enough basis once it knew of the seriousness of the complaints being raised.
RCI seemed to be waiting and waiting for more information and I think that served no other purpose than to antagonise members that have invested in RVP that were looking to it to take an appropriate stance with regard to Mr Duker.
Gleeson confirmed church members have expressed their consternation to him at the way they have been treated by RCI, but said it was a matter for individual members to comment on whether they had faced intimidation or pressure from their church over their desire to pursue Duker.
But the liquidator told Crikey he’s also very concerned by the role played by auditor Allan Walker.
“My focus is also quantifying the action against Mr Walker. The fact that the company operated at a loss each year and the fact that under oath Mr Duker and Mr Walker gave inconsistent evidence about how many properties the companies actually had an interest in, is of grave concern to me,” says Gleeson.
“…at no point in time during any of the years in which the company made a loss [revealed in] the financial statements which Mr Walker audited … did he give a qualified opinion. That’s where an auditor is concerned about a company’s ongoing ability to meet its debts as and when they fall due.”