Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Dispute over costs in gold trading firm fraud probe

A Bentley and other European cars belonging to the Robertsons' are among assets frozen until Decemeber. Photo / Getty
A Bentley and other European cars belonging to the Robertsons' are among assets frozen until Decemeber. Photo / Getty

Some $10 million was deposited into a group of companies being probed for fraud while less than $2 million was paid out over seven years, the High Court has heard.

This allegation was made during a short dispute this morning over who should pay receivers' costs of Prosper Through Trading, also known as PTT.

PTT, a gold and currency trading firm, has been in the hands of receivers since August after the Financial Markets Authority went to the High Court to freeze its assets, as well as those of four associated entities and of Steven and Lisa Robertson.

It later emerged that the FMA has serious concerns that the company was running a "fraudulent scheme designed to obtain money from members of the public".

These concerns, according to a judge, arose from a complaint to the FMA that Steven Robertson was operating a "Ponzi scheme" through PTT and other entities.

The FMA's investigation is ongoing, and its lawyer Dale La Hood told Justice Matthew Palmer this morning that it was not yet at a point at which it can decide if further action should be taken.

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La Hood referred to alleged "misconduct" being uncovered and said $10 million had been deposited into entities over a seven year period and less than $2 million was paid out.

While the FMA had planned to interview Robertson next month, each investor they spoke to threw up another chain of inquiry, La Hood said.

The amounts now said to be involved are much higher than previously thought.

About $4.4 million had come into PTT and associated companies between June 2013 and August last year and that the group only had $51,000 of cash, a receivers report said last September. At that time, the receivers had incurred about $115,000 worth of costs and the question of who would pay them was deferred.

La Hood said this morning that receivers would need to be paid with either the group's frozen property or by the taxpayer via the FMA.

The Herald revealed last September that a Bentley Continental and a late-model Mercedes-Benz were among assets frozen, as well as a $1.25 million house.

The cars have since been sold.

Robertson has also agreed to sell a $40,000 Audi, the court heard today.

La Hood said that Robertson had now become "altruistic" in not wanting the costs to be paid out of the frozen estate, because it would diminish the amount available for any aggrieved creditors.

However, La Hood argued these creditors had more of a link to the case than the taxpayer.
Robertson's lawyer, Brett Vautier, said the question of costs should be put off until any proceedings were concluded.

"If Mr Roberston is not pursued either criminally or civilly and is absolved of any fault or wrongdoing, he is the aggrieved party," Vautier said.

The receivers' lawyer Jeremy Upson made no submissions on who should pay costs but said simply that his client would like to be paid.

While there were was argument over the costs, the parties agreed over the sale of the Audi, the payment of legal fees out of the frozen property, that Robertson was not to contact investors and the confidentiality.

Justice Palmer reserved his decision.

- NZ Herald

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