Nearly 100 clients of a Christchurch company which a judge says was "running a simple Ponzi scheme" got paid out $2.5 million more than they put into the business.

Liquidators are trying to claw back some of this money and have served formal legal notices on 12 Arena Capital investors.

"We prefer to avoid formal legal action but it is in the best interests of of all Arena's other clients for us to take legal action where satisfactory repayment arrangements cannot be agreed," co-liquidator Neale Jackson said in a report today.

NZ foreign exchange firm was running a 'simple Ponzi scheme'


Arena Capital, which traded as BlackfortFX, has been in receivership since last May after the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) froze its assets and was put into liquidation last August. The firm is being probed by both the FMA and the Serious Fraud Office.

Jackson said the liquidators had reached repayment agreements with 21 of the 95 clients who got paid out more than they put in. Just over $190,000 has been recovered from them so far.

The liquidators are in negotiations with some other clients, although say others are refusing to speak to them or will not enter into repayment arrangements.

"We intend to take further action against these clients," Jackson said.

While Arena Capital marketed itself as a foreign exchange trader, Jackson said last August there was no evidence that it had traded or generated profits for itself or its 1100 clients, who were owed around $7 million.

A High Court judge, in a dispute this month over how to treat funds deposited in Arena's accounts after its assets were frozen, said the company did not conduct any trades.

"Profits the clients were led to believe existed were in fact fictitious. Monies disbursed to clients to maintain the facade of an active operation were paid out from deposits from other clients. Arena was operating, in essence, a simple Ponzi scheme," Justice Cameron Mander said.

Jackson, in today's report, says he is continuing to pursue claims against Arena's director Jimmie Kevin McNicholl.

The liquidators, in the last six months, recovered two vehicles purchased with Arena's money and a $1.18 million block of land that the company paid for. The land, in the Auckland suburb of Coatesville, will now be sold by the liquidators.

The liquidators have also recovered $80,000 Arena had paid as deposits for two luxury vehicles which were never purchased.

Jackson also said that the liquidators - subject to any investors appeal - will pay $249,000 to clients who deposited money with Arena after its assets were frozen.

The liquidators went to the High Court arguing that the 17 clients who put money into the firm after the freeze were no different to any other investors with Arena.

However, Justice Mander said that the freezing orders effectively "quarantined any subsequent deposits".

The post-freeze deposits, the judge said, could be easily traced and should be paid to the 17 investors in priority to any other distributions.