Blue Chip battle: Stories from the victims

By David Eames

Thomas and Ann Cawood of Birkenhead have lost everything after a bad Blue Chip investment. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Thomas and Ann Cawood of Birkenhead have lost everything after a bad Blue Chip investment. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Tom and Ann Cawood

The small hallway into Tom and Ann Cawood's Birkenhead apartment is lined with pots, pans and suitcases.

"On the first of June," says Mr Cawood, pointing toward the entranceway, "that door will close and hopefully a retirement home will open for us."

The couple, who arrived from South Africa in 1995, have been forced to walk away from the modest two-bedroom unit - their home for three years - after losing everything in Blue Chip investments.

Their next stop, the Green Valley retirement lodge in nearby Glenfield.

The couple weren't foolish with their money, just desperate for funds to pay for medical treatment for the after-effects of Mrs Cawood's cancer.

In 2004 and 2005, the Cawoods invested with Blue Chip in an apartment in Central Auckland.

They paid $450,000 for the apartment, $50,000 of which, unknown to them, were Blue Chip "management fees".

But it turned out to be severely overvalued, and as Blue Chip staggered and fell, the Cawoods were forced to sell.

They managed to dispose of the property, but got only $200,000 for it, leaving them $250,000 out of pocket.

"At the drop of a hat, I cry," 78-year-old Mr Cawood says.

Mrs Cawood, 75, can't understand how, after a life of hard work and careful living, they are faced with the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in "a care home".

And Mrs Cawood - a one-time South African Businesswoman of the Year - is angry with the sentence handed down to former Blue Chip director Mark Bryers, who on Thursday received a $37,500 fine and 75 hours' community service.

"I am very disappointed because I can't understand how the Government can just give him a fine," she says.

"We worked hard our whole lives ... I had a factory and 300 workers."

Their ordeal has left Mr Cawood, a retired electrical engineer, in a "major depressive state", and on medication.

"Every waking moment I think of what that man did to us with his lies."

Suzanne Edmonds, the co-ordinator of Blue Chip victims' group Exposing Unacceptable Financial Activities, said the victim impact reports submitted to the court had "only hardened our resolve to see this country deliver some justice to the victims.

"These reports make for sober reading and are simply depressing given we all had trust that we are protected from these types of crooks in New Zealand."

Colin and Bev Mossop

The impact of the actions of Mark Bryers in relation to his Blue Chip empire has devastated our lives. Our dreams - after many years of hard, honest work - for our future financial stability and enjoyment of life have been shattered.

This has also impacted heavily on our physical and emotional health. Colin has previously had open-heart surgery and is fragile. We wish this nightmare was over, but when we wake (if we sleep) it is all still there!

This ghastly business is of course causing us great financial stress and strain, attempting still to pay a portion at least of the large mortgage Mark Bryers has left us with.

Carole and Keith Corner

The losses we've suffered are not just the lump sums of repaying the mortgage and losing the money we paid into Blue Chip, we lost on having to sell furniture and many treasured possessions in order to fit into the small unit.

We have to exist on our superannuation.

We now depend on social welfare for our healthcare as we no longer have the money to pay health insurance.

We think twice before going to a doctor and new spectacles or visits to the dentist are out of the question.

Margaret Rasmussen

All spare funds have been exhausted and I am now insolvent/destitute. This debacle has not helped this marriage. I was told that I was not allowed to discuss the [Blue Chip investment] with anybody, and so my new husband knew nothing about it until it collapsed.

We are now technically under house arrest - [with] no available finance to enjoy life.

I am 70 years old but can't see me ever retiring. We have to find the money each month to pay the lawyer to fight for us. I can see no end to the stress.

Gwendoline Harrison

My home has been stolen from me and I have nothing in return. I have lived in this home for 62 years and now I am told that it no longer belongs to me and I can be put out at any time.

I have heart problems brought on by the stress and am having to make frequent visits to the doctor.

I am 92 years old. I have to find the money each month to pay the lawyer to fight for me. I can see no end to the stress. I could once enjoy my retirement but no more. I just live from day to day, struggling to survive.

Margaret

We lost a lot of money. We lost our home, but we are no different from the other people who lost their homes.

We sold our home and we have got a little bit of money put aside. We had been in our home for 49 years and did a lot of alterations. When it happened [Blue Chip], my husband had a stroke because of the worry of everything.

We don't want people feeling sorry for us, because we are just two of many.

He [Mark Bryers] led us down the garden path, he really did.

- NZ Herald

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