Christchurch man alleged to have been running a ponzi scheme

Paul Clifford Hibbs, pictured in 2001, was last year named as being under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and ...
ANNETTE TURNBULL-DEW/FAIRFAX NZ

Paul Clifford Hibbs, pictured in 2001, was last year named as being under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and Financial Markets Authority.

A man who ran what was alleged to be a significant ponzi scheme in which investors were told at least $20 million was missing has been charged by the Serious Fraud Office.

Paul Clifford Hibbs, 48, was last year named as being under investigation by the SFO and Financial Markets Authority (FMA), relating his company Hansa.

The SFO and FMA provided no further details, but last September investor John Docherty and his wife claimed they had been left stranded after allegedly being swindled out of $650,000.

Serious Fraud Office director Julie Read says Hibbs went to some lengths to ensure information looked genuine.
MICHAEL BRADLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Serious Fraud Office director Julie Read says Hibbs went to some lengths to ensure information looked genuine.

Multiple sources said Hansa investors have been told at least $20 million was missing, and that Hibbs was thought to have been running a ponzi scheme.

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On Tuesday, Hibbs appeared in the Christchurch District Court to face charges of false statement by promoter, theft by person in a special relationship, using forged documents, and forgery, all brought by the SFO.

The SFO said two businesses owned and operated by Hibbs, Hansa and Cameron Gladstone Investments, developed into a ponzi scheme about 2008.

Hansa was established in 2005, with Hibbs listed as the only director and shareholder the company has ever had.

It was alleged Hibbs provided clients with false investment reports and used investor funds for purposes other than required, such as paying other clients.

SFO director Julie Read said Hibbs went to some lengths to ensure information sent to investors looked genuine.

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"Investors who suspected that that their money was being misappropriated took the right action in reporting the matter to the FMA who referred the matter to the SFO."

Hibbs was scheduled to reappear on July 12.

Hansa was in January put in liquidation on application by the investor who claimed to have lost $650,000.

Waterstone Insolvency liquidator Damien Grant said in December they had so far identified payments of at least $9m into the company.

Freezing orders were obtained over all of Hibbs' assets, while Grant's investigations to date showed Hansa had failed to invest and manage funds in accordance with agreements signed with investors.

"Instead, the company appears to have been run as a ponzi scheme under which investors' funds appear to have been misappropriated," liquidators said.

"It appears that a number of related entities, in particular Cameron Gladstone Investments, are similarly involved in the fraud."

The report said it was too early to know if any distribution would be made to investors.

In May, Cameron Gladstone was also put into liquidation.

Grant said while there were two different companies, the liquidators believed it was really just one scheme.

"We believe that there was one business, or potentially a ponzi scheme, but there were two companies involved.

"Now that we've got access to both we'll be able to see the full extent of what has happened."

Another business owned by Hibbs, Boutique Hair & Beauty, has also gone into receivership owing more than $1.4m.

The international hair and beauty product brand supplier went into receivership in February on Hibbs' request.

High-profile businessman Craig Stobo was listed as Hansa's managing director in its prospectus, but said he was "completely unaware" this was the case until regulators contacted him.

Stobo said he was never involved as a general manager or had any relationship with Hansa, and gave regulators as much information as he could.

In the mid-2000s Stobo and Hibbs had been seeking opportunities in the market, he said, but they came to nothing.

"I moved on, but obviously he didn't."

Stobo said he had not spoken to, or had contact with Hibbs since then.

 - Stuff

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