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Sep 6, 2010

ATO adds to Gore’s ponzi sheme accusation woes

The official liquidator appointed by the Supreme Court of NSW, accused Craig Gore (and co-director John Atkinson) of operating a ponzi scheme and misleading investors.

With friends such as Craig Gore, Paul Hogan must be wondering what his enemies are capable of. Gore, a former bankrupt and the son of Mike Gore, who was one of Queensland’s original “white shoe brigade” in the 1980s, last week spoke out against the ATO, which had temporarily imposed a Departure Prohibition Order on Hogan. While a comically disguised Hogan left Australia over the weekend after his lawyers managed to negotiate a temporary truce with the ATO, it is unlikely that Gore’s comments were much help. (Gore had spoken to The Australian last week, claiming that he knew how Hogan felt).

Gore was referring to the 2008 Departure Prohibition Order that had prevented him from leaving the country. (The ATO’s desire to prevent Gore Junior from leaving Australia in 2008 may have been hereditary —  Gore Senior, who was the developer of Queensland’s Sanctuary Cove resort, fled Australia for Canada in the early 1990s, leaving creditors owed millions). Craig Gore’s situation worsened last week after the ATO froze his accounts pending a garnishee order demanding $800,000. This prompted Gore to accuse the ATO of being “intentionally vexatious” and claimed he had “had enough”.

But while Gore was expressing his sorrow for Hogan’s plight, few have expressing much sympathy for his predicament — especially investors in Gore’s company, Secured Capital & Finance, and those who relied on the advice of Gore’s financial planning firm, Wright Patton Shakespeare Financial Services.

According to a report to creditors released in June, CRSWarnerKugel, the official liquidator appointed by the Supreme Court of NSW, accused Gore (and co-director John Atkinson) of operating a ponzi scheme and misleading investors. The liquidator’s report claimed that Gore and Atkinson (who was declared bankrupt in June) had raised funds from the public (and largely from clients of Wright Patton Shakespeare, a financial advisory firm that they controlled). Those funds were invested in Secured Capital & Finance, which, much to those investors’ later disappointment, were not secured by anything.

The liquidator reported that the funds invested were not secured by way of property or some other tangible asset and that Gore and Atkinson would “lend or gift funds people had invested in Secured Capital & Finance … to other companies owned/controlled by them” without any documentation or other paperwork.

In a scheme that may have been borrowed from Bernie Madoff, Gore and Atkinson allegedly told investors that Secured Capital & Finance would provide returns of more than 8% annually and appeared to make interest payment from new investors. Other uses of investors’ funds were allegedly to pay the credit card expenses of Gore and Atkinson.

The liquidator stated that Gore and Atkinson may be liable for civil or even criminal claims for a range of offences including failure to prevent a company from trading while insolvent, unreasonable related party transactions, breaches of their directors’ duties and potential breaches of the Trade Practice Act.

Last week was a busy one for Gore. Aside from having his accounts frozen, the entrepreneur also reached a confidential settlement with fund management group Balmain Trilogy. The settlement related to an action launched by Gore after City Pacific and its First Mortgage Fund appointed receivers to Gore’s companies in 2009.

ASIC has provided funding for liquidators to prepare supplementary reports into the business actions of Gore and Atkinson but has not announced any charges against the former tycoon.

It appears that given ASIC’s apparent reluctance to bother with its own criminal or civil investigations and the extensive delay between corporate collapses and any charges being laid, Bernie Madoff and Marc Drier will be regretting not operating their ponzi schemes from Australia.

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