Ponzi accused remanded without plea

Last updated 16:17 05/07/2013
David Ross
Kevin Stent

David Ross in court, accused of running a $450 million Ponzi scheme.

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Reports that liquidators have made progress selling David Ross' assets have done little to calm irate investors after the case against the man alleged to have engineered the country's biggest Ponzi scheme was delayed.

An update from PwC says paintings in Ross' home were sold in March for $198,837, and his Mercedes was repossessed.

It said his personal funds, which were used to pay a $1000-a-week stipend allowed under his bail conditions, had been exhausted.

Ross appeared briefly in the Wellington District Court today facing eight charges related to the collapse of Ross Asset Management, the investment firm he ran that reportedly had $450 million in funds under management.

The Serious Fraud Office formally charged Ross with four counts of false accounting and one count of fraud in the Wellington District Court in June, related to running an alleged $400m Ponzi scheme.

Last week, the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) charged Ross with providing a financial service when he was not registered to do so, made false or misleading statements to get authorisation as a financial adviser and supplying information to the authority that he knew to be false or misleading.

He was expected to plead on the charges today, but the case was remanded and placed under review for another seven weeks.

One investor, Barry Prince, said he was not surprised by the delay, given that the FMA had levelled its charges against Ross only five days ago, but he was disappointed at the slow pace of the case.

"If they were using taxpayers' money properly they would have gone ahead with the charges and then at a later date dealt with the FMA charges," he said.

Prince, who sat one seat away from Ross in court before today's hearing, said FMA penalties amounted to little more than a farce.

The first of the authority's charges carries a maximum penalty of 12 months' jail or a $100,000 fine, while the last two carry maximum penalties of $100,000 and $300,000 respectively.

"Where is the money going to come from to pay such a fine?" Prince said. "Is that money going to be paid to the FMA before any victims get a payout?"

Gary Turkington, who is representing Ross, said neither he nor his client could comment while the case had been placed under review.

Ross is alleged to have lured new investors to his Ross Asset Management fund with promises of returns of up to 30 per cent a year, but instead used the money to pay those getting out of the scheme and to fund his lavish lifestyle.

An investigation into the fund, which was said to be worth $400m from 1200 investors when it collapsed in November after two decades of operation, found just $10.2m in assets to back it.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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