A foreign exchange firm that collapsed leaving a mystery over $500,000 in bullion found in an office safe and creditors owed $15 million is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.
The April collapse of Queen St-based Forex Brokers saw liquidators Chris McCullagh and Stephen Lawrence of PKF uncover a long list of creditors with effectively no assets to satisfy them.
The bullion, found in a locked office safe, has sparked a legal dispute involving the liquidators and a creditor, who is claiming the precious metals were his.
McCullagh told the Herald the dispute over the precious metals was ongoing.
"We're just going through the process, with lawyers on both sides, to try and determine ownership."
The company's sole director and shareholder, Russell Maher, told liquidators his business collapsed after getting over-extended.
Many of the company's clients were used-car dealers, who found their import orders were stranded on wharves when transmitted funds failed to arrive offshore. Several creditors also told the Herald Maher had in recent years solicited funds for investment.
A spokeswoman for the SFO on Friday said the office had opened a formal investigation "into the affairs of Russell Angus Maher and Forex Brokers".
The investigation is being conducted under part of the Serious Fraud Office Act that provides considerable investigative powers that can only be activated if there were "reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed".
Forex Brokers' website went offline a week before its collapse, but had said the company was founded in August 1995 "with the goal of providing a higher standard of service delivery".
Maher had said on the website: "I have over 20 years experience in the foreign currency industry and will combine this experience with an extremely high level of business integrity and customer service ... I would like the opportunity to partner with you to professionally manage your forex needs. Feel free to contact me to discuss your particular requirements."
Requests for comment sent to Maher's lawyers have gone unanswered.