More than 1,500 Singaporean and Malaysian investors could have lost over $87 million to an alleged Ponzi scheme.
The scheme reportedly run by Macro Realty Developments was heavily marketed in Singapore and Malaysia from as early as 2014, encouraging investors to put money into property developments in Western Australia’s Pilbara.
According to The Straits Times, 981 investors in the scheme were from Singapore while 651 were from Malaysia. A smaller number of investors from Britain, continental Europe and Australia also put money in the scheme.
Australia’s ABC News reported that overseas investors were shown “slick” marketing material that depicted Pilbara as having a strong economy.
Macro’s boss, 37-year-old Australian Veronica Macpherson, is being accused of running the scheme which promised returns as high as 18 per cent. In reality, the places investors put their money in were not developed fully or at all, The Straits Times reported.
Some investors trusted the scheme because they saw a video in which Macpherson can be seen chatting with former Western Australia Nationals leader Brendon Grylls in the Western Australia Parliament building.
A source told ABC that many of the Malaysian investors were not wealthy or highly educated and had lost their life savings to the scheme.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) revealed in court documents that the Singapore police have also started investigations into Macro, ABC News said.
In August last year, Australia’s Federal Court ordered a freeze on her assets, and those of companies associated with the schemes, The West reported.
A report in June this year by the same news website said that auditors found “a real prospect there will be insufficient recoveries to allow for any return to unsecured creditors”.
ASIC has estimated that a group of companies Macpherson runs owes as much as $199 million.
Court documents state that the alleged Ponzi scheme collapsed when Macro did not have enough new investors to meet its expenses, forcing it to stop payments to investors.
Despite these accusations, Macpherson has denied running a Ponzi scheme.
Before her legal woes, she was believed to have owned a $140,000 Maserati and lived in a New York apartment which cost $6,750 a month.
ASIC is also investigating Macpherson over potential offences of stealing, fraud and forgery, ABC reported.