Federal Court disqualifies officers over failed land banking scheme
The Federal Court of Australia has disqualified two officers involved in a land banking scheme that targeted both retail and SMSF investors.
Michael Grochowski and Ian Stephens have been disqualified from managing corporations for five and a half years and four years respectively by the Federal Court of Australia.
Both were officers of companies that had failed and been wound up by the Court.
Mr Grochowski was an officer of Bilkurra Investments Pty Ltd and Foscari Holdings Pty Ltd, now both in liquidation, before they were wound up by the Court.
In a public release, ASIC stated that Bilkurra Investments and Foscari Holdings operated land banking schemes in Victoria, known as Hermitage Bendigo and Foscari. Promoters of the land banking schemes used Bilkurra and Foscari to raise approximately $24 million from investors.
In July last year, the Federal Court made orders winding up five companies involved with Hermitage Bendigo and another land banking scheme called Veneziane.
Four of the companies entered into contracts for the purchase of land for rezoning and were involved in the promotion of the schemes and received money from investors.
ASIC sought orders as it was concerned that the companies were insolvent and that money raised from investors [of] more than $15 million had been transferred between companies without any apparent concern for obligations owed to investors, and that the majority of funds raised from investors had been dissipated.
Some of the investors involved in the scheme were SMSFs, as previously confirmed by ASIC.
In deciding the period of banning, the court considered an earlier decision of a delegate of ASIC, made in April 2012, prohibiting Grochowski from providing financial services for four years.
The Court was also satisfied with ASIC’s claim that the way both companies were managed was the reason for their failing.
It also found that the appointment of Stephens as a director of both companies, who was an experienced chartered accountant, presented a false facade of meaningful oversight and governance of the companies’ affairs.
Further, the Court found Mr Stephens failed to exercise any meaningful decision making and management responsibility for the companies, which had obtained large amounts of investment from the public.
ASIC commissioner John Price said these bannings will help protect the public from further investing with officers of companies that repeatedly fail.
“ASIC will continue to investigate failed land banking schemes and take whatever action is necessary to ensure failed schemes do not continue.”