A former top real estate agent faces a criminal charge of obtaining nearly half-a-million-dollars by deception for his role in the controversial on-sale of Auckland bowling club land.

But Aaron Drever - once one of the country's most high-profile real estate agents - says he has done nothing wrong and is only guilty of making a nearly $500,000 profit.

Drever earned millions of dollars in commission money from property sales while working for various West Auckland firms.

But the 35-year-old now faces a police prosecution and appeared on Friday in the Auckland District Court.

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He is charged by police with obtaining $466,553.37 by deception on December 6, 2016.
The Herald has confirmed the charge relates to Drever's alleged role in the on-sale of Avondale Bowling Club land.

Property records show the land at 1797 Great North Rd was sold in December 2016 for $300,000 by Avondale Bowling Club Incorporated to a company named Avondale Bowling Club Limited, whose sole director and shareholder at the time was Beverley Ellen Spain.

The sale price was less that half the land's rateable value at the time. Spain is Drever's aunt.

It is understood the property changed hands again on the same day, with Drever confirming the second sale was for $775,000 - a mark up of $475,000.

Ex real estate agent Aaron Drever has been criminally charged for his alleged role in the controversial sale of bowling club land. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ex real estate agent Aaron Drever has been criminally charged for his alleged role in the controversial sale of bowling club land. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The final buyer was 88 Cents Limited, which is owned by Auckland property investor Jonathan Michell, who Drever has been involved in several previous property deals with.

Spain is no longer a director or shareholder of Avondale Bowling Club Limited, which Companies Office records show is now owned by Drever.

In a statement last night, Drever confirmed he had purchased the Avondale Bowling Club land himself through his aunt's company in order to prevent the Herald learning of his windfall.

"All the shares in the company were held in trust for me, it was my company and I controlled it. I had authority to operate this company from my aunty and both her and I had discussed this with our lawyer.

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"The reason I did this was that I had previously had a series of stories published in the newspaper and I knew that if my name was on the paperwork the Herald would do a story complaining about the profit I had made."

Drever said he learned the bowling club was in financial difficulty and needed to sell an asset through his ex-partner, who had been secretary of the club.

After inspecting the land he realised a boundary change could make it a development site, significantly increasing its value.

He then offered the land to Michell who agreed to buy it "at an agreed price".

Drever said all parties were made aware it was an on-sale situation involving a "middle" company, and their lawyers had access to electronic records some two weeks before settlement.

"Nobody asked how much profit I was making and what the value of the transaction was at each stage."

Drever added that he ran the deal past his own lawyers to ensure everything was above board.

"Before doing the transaction, I had my lawyer confirm that nothing I was doing was illegal. My concern was that I was doing real estate agency work. My lawyer checked this with a lawyer from another firm and he confirmed that it was okay to proceed with the transaction.

"Nobody ever asked how much money I would make from the on-sale, including the lawyer for the bowling club, despite the fact that it was visible to all that this was an on-sale.

"The final purchaser did not ask about the on-sale despite the fact they had full visibility."

Drever said he'd come up with a "clever idea" to increase the site's value and make a "reasonable profit".

"My advisors and I are completely confused as to why the police seem to think I have committed a crime. When they arrested me, they said they had only arrested me because they wanted a statement and because I wasn't talking to them, they decided I needed some time at Mt Eden to think about it.

"It appears that I am required to be responsible for all the parties to this transaction, not the respective lawyers.

"If making a reasonable profit on a deal is a crime most of the New Zealand rich list are in some serious trouble. If I had only made $50,000 profit, then I doubt the police would be interested. I also wonder whether my past has just painted a target on my back for them."

While Drever now faces criminal proceedings, the sale is also under investigation by the Real Estate Authority (REA).

A spokesman told the Herald the REA probe was on hold pending the outcome of the police prosecution.

Drever is due to reappear in court later this month.

Last year, members of the Avondale Bowling Club voted to liquidate and sell the more than 100-year-old club.

At the time of the sale Auckland Bowls general manager Phil Vyver said it was "unfortunate" the historic club, first formed in 1912, would be closing its doors.

In July last year, the High Court found Drever was also personally liable for nearly half a million dollars in debt after failing to restart the Nosh supermarket brand.

The Herald has sought comment from Michell.