A former Tauranga man working as a foreign exchange trader is being prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office for allegedly stealing more than $830,000 from his investors.
Rene Alan Chalmers, 42, who now lives and works as a teacher in Pukekohe, faced 15 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship, dishonestly taking or using a document, false statement by promoter when he appeared in Auckland District Court this week.
The charges stem from his foreign exchange (forex) activities on behalf of clients, and his conduct relating to the purchases of three Western Bay properties between 2011 and 2012.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) alleges Chalmers misled banks when applying for mortgages for the three properties.
The first two properties are two Mount Maunganui apartments in the same building, one with a capital value of $500,000 and other $338,000, while the third property is a five-bedroom house with a pool which recently sold for $1.195 million.
The SFO alleges Chalmers had misappropriated about $837,046 from investors for his personal use and also overstated investors' positions by an estimated $4 million.
The Serious Fraud Office has revealed that in January 2007, Chalmers and an associate registered foreign change investment company Chalmers Cameron Investment Limited (CCIL) with the New Zealand Companies Office.
According to the NZ Companies Office register, CCIL was registered initially in the United Arab Emirates and more recently in Tauranga.
The SFO said Chalmers began receiving money from family members and friends through CCIL for the purpose of foreign exchange trading.
He resided in the United Arab Emirates from 2007 to 2011, and from 2009 started accepting investor monies from colleagues and acquaintances, and the business continued on his return to New Zealand in 2011.
In May 2012, CCIL was placed into voluntary liquidation owing investors about US$5 million ($5.94 million).
The SFO alleges that although investors believed they were giving Chalmers their money for the express purpose of foreign exchange trading, he was using the funds contrary to the agreements under which the monies were accepted.
It is further alleged he was reporting false gains to investors via monthly or quarterly investor statements.
During his brief court appearance, his lawyer Paul Mabey QC said his client was not in a position to enter pleas.
Community Magistrate Rebecca Ewert remanded Chalmers on bail, ordered him to hand over his passport to court staff and also banned him from working as a foreign exchange dealer or financial adviser while on bail.
Outside court Mr Mabey said it was too early for him or his client to comment.
Acting SFO chief executive Simon McArley told the Bay of Plenty Times that the SFO launched its investigation in April last year after receiving complaints from investors.
Mr McArley said the fraud charges relate to 63 complainants, some of whom live in Tauranga.
"It wasn't a huge operation but what was lost involved quite large balances."
Mr McArley said the accused was investing money initially for ex-pats he met in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates but that extended to people wider afield, including some in Tauranga when he returned to the country in 2011.
"Most of Mr Chalmers' alleged victims either live overseas or are spread around the country."
Mr McArley said all three properties at the centre of allegations have since been sold, and he understood that the two Mount Maunganui apartments were in the same building in Maunganui Road.
Documents obtained by this newspaper confirm that when CCIL went into liquidation on May 28, 2012 it had a deficit of $4,835,000 and owed 61 known creditors.
Kenneth Brown and Paul Manning from Tauranga-based firm RHB Chartered Accountants have been appointed joint liquidators.