Investor wants to take fight to court

JOHN EDENS IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2013

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A 50-year-old Wakatipu woman who lost her nest egg when New Zealand's largest alleged Ponzi scheme collapsed says she wants to take her fight to court.

In 2004, Bev Nicholson, of Kingston, and her partner, Roger Macaskill, who has since died, invested $50,000 with Ross Asset Management. It collapsed owing about 900 investors $450 million in November.

Receiver John Fisk has said the structure of the Ross group of companies bore the characteristics of a Ponzi scheme, in which investors' funds are used to cover withdrawals.

So far about $10 million in assets have been recovered.

Ms Nicholson said she wanted to take her fight to the High Court to ask for details of her investment, contributions and withdrawals to be released to her.

"There's no winning. It's quite corrupt, the whole system. I want released the names and the amounts. They reckon the only way you are going to get your money back is to follow it.

"If they're telling us that's the only way you can track your money then I need that information."

Millions of dollars were withdrawn from Ross Asset Management, known as RAM, in the 18 months before it collapsed.

Ms Nicholson runs a cleaning business and said her investment was meant to be her nest egg.

"It was my security, it was my retirement. In my mind, I had nine years to work, now I've got 19 and I just think 'You bastard'.

"It's cruel. The fact this country lets it happen and turns a blind eye to it really upsets me."

In 2009, she was persuaded to retain her investment after considering a withdrawal and reached an agreement to be paid $6000 a year.

She received one payment.

Of more than two dozen Wakatipu investors, she is the only one so far to stick her head above the parapet.

A joint investigation was started last year by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Markets Authority. SFO acting chief executive Simon McArley said the investigation was well advanced and when the matter was concluded the outcome would be made public.

The office started its investigation in November after evaluating information from the authority and receivers and determining there were reasonable grounds to believe an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed.

Last month the markets' regulator wrote to Ross investors asking them to respond to 46 questions. A spokesman said investors were responding but no comment on the answers was available.

The joint investigation was probing potential breaches of the Securities Act, the Financial Advisers Act and the Crimes Act.

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"The investigation has been comprehensive and has considered all information relevant to FMA and SFO functions," he said.

PwC, as receivers and liquidators, were responsible for recovering funds but there was no expectation the recovered assets would increase.

- The Southland Times

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