A Federal Court decision will pave the way for the sale of Ponzi scheme creator Melissa Caddick’s assets, with duped investors hoping some of their money will be returned.
The court on Monday declared the mother-of-one, who vanished on November 12 last year, had provided unlicensed financial advice between 2012 and 2020 and ordered her company Maliver be wound up.
Liquidators who had been acting on a provisional basis were also made permanent.
However, the liquidators will still require court approval before taking possession of Caddick and Maliver’s property, realising assets and distributing the proceeds of those sales.
That was due to the unusual circumstances of the case, including Caddick’s vanishing, complexities arising from potential claims by non-investors over her property, and the potential for different classes of investors making different claims, Justice Brigitte Markovic said.
Caddick is likely deceased after the remains of her foot washed up on a NSW beach in February, having disappeared the day after the corporate regulator raided her Dover Heights home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
From October 2012, she collected more than $30 million from 72 so-called investors, most of whom were family and friends and all of whom expected their funds would be invested on their behalf.
“Instead, (the funds) were used to meet Ms Caddick’s personal expenses and purchase assets in her name,” Justice Markovic said on Monday.
Based on the liquidators’ report, the court found investors were owed $23,554,921.
That figure is subject to any potential “unjust enrichment or uncommercial transaction” claims related to Caddick paying out returns that were fictitious or possibly inflated.
Maliver, whose sole director was Caddick, traded on another person’s Australian Financial Services Licence and neither the company nor Caddick ever held an AFSL while providing a financial service, the judge found.
That breached the corporations act.
The court’s full reasons are expected to be released on Wednesday, once parties agree on what sensitive information should be redacted.
‘Quite elaborate fraud’
The decision comes after a hearing in June and July in which Justice Markovic was told of Caddick’s “quite elaborate fraud” that followed a repeated pattern.
She would convince potential investors of her prowess in creating wealth, interview them and advise them of an investment strategy.
Caddick told one investor “I don’t need to do this … I’m doing it to help people and it’s very much restricted to family and friends,” according to that investor’s affidavit.
Statements purporting to be from online stockbroking firm CommSec and in investors’ names were provided.
But the accounts didn’t exist.
About half of the investors also established self-managed superannuation funds to facilitate investments, regulator Australian Securities and Investments Commission told the hearing.
Her parents are among those making claims, after handing their daughter $1.03m on the understanding they would own part of an Edgecliff home and, importantly, have life tenancy.
If not for their daughter’s representations, the parents now aged in their 80s would have bought a smaller property in their own name in Sydney’s southern suburbs, the court was told in July.
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