Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Panama runaway mystery to family

Tony Lusby. Photo / Supplied
Tony Lusby. Photo / Supplied

A Hamilton man who lost almost $7 million of investors' money before taking off to Panama has not been heard from in months and his family don't even know if he is still alive.

Tony Lusby set up a fund called Lifestyles Investment Group which attracted investors in New Zealand and Australia.

In September the Herald revealed allegations that Mr Lusby had defrauded 67 investors from New Zealand and Australia of $6.7 million and fled to Panama.

Auckland barrister Mark van Leewarden, on behalf of the 30 Kiwi victims, had made complaints to the the Serious Fraud Office, Australian Securities & Investments Commission, the US Attorney's Office and the FBI about Mr Lusby's investment scheme.

On September 6, Mr Lusby contacted the Herald from Panama, where he was living with his wife and infant twin sons, and denied stealing the money.

He denied any dishonest activity, but admitted he had lost the $6.7 million as a result of making bad decisions.

He promised to return to New Zealand by the end of September to deal with the allegations and try to put things right with the investors.

But since then, he has not made contact with anyone in New Zealand.

He has not responded to emails from the Herald, and has not been in contact with Mr van Leewarden.

A source close to Mr Lusby's family said they were "heartbroken" he had not returned home.

They have not heard from him since about September, and have no idea where he is.

"We don't even know if he's alive. Maybe we'll never see him again," the source said.

"It's really horrible, terrible. It's absolutely shocking and it breaks our hearts."

The source did not understand how Mr Lusby could simply vanish overseas.

"How do these people run and not get caught? We can't believe it. It's hurting the family."

Mr Lusby's family were being "driven crazy" not knowing where he was. The source said they still loved him and wanted him to come home.

Details of Mr Lusby's lavish lifestyle overseas recently emerged - his family say he owns a Porsche, a boat, a plane and a beach house in Panama.

In September he admitted to the Herald that he used investors' money to float that lifestyle.

He admitted pouring $200,000 into his bar in Panama City - which later went bust.

A further $750,000 was lost in a failed merger with another investment fund.

"It's all gone," he said at the time.

"I got behind the eight-ball ... I definitely haven't stolen anything. But I need to face up to the allegations and see what can be resolved."

- NZ Herald

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