No action against Ipswich developer over Brookwater Resort

The corporate watchdog was tipped off almost a year ago about developer Richard Turner allegedly selling units in a proposed Queensland golf resort scheme he no longer controlled, but determined it would not take any action.

Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission, the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, and Ipswich City Council also received complaints about possible misrepresentation by the then-mayor and CEO supporting the Brookwater resort scheme from August 2015 onwards, but the investigations cleared them.

Fairfax Media revealed allegations on Tuesday that Mr Turner has continued to market and sell apartments in the scheme even though his landholding company was taken over by receivers in October 2016, raising a further $3 million in deposits from mum-and-dad investors in and overseas.

Documents show money has been raised since the October 2016 receivership of the company through which Mr Turner owned the land earmarked for the first phase of the scheme.

Correspondence obtained by Fairfax Media shows that in November 2016 the corporate regulator ASIC wrote to former Ipswich mayoral candidate Gary Duffy regarding his concerns about the scheme.

“You have raised concerns that Brookwater may have misled the public by continuing to promote its resort development after they had lost possession of the land allocated to the resort,” ASIC official John Searle wrote to Mr Duffy.

“We conducted our own inquiries to obtain additional information … weighed the obligations under law against the evidence available, and have determined that we will not take action.”

A month later Queensland’s corruption watchdog similarly rejected a complaint from Mr Duffy alleging that the then-mayor of Ipswich, Paul Pisasale, and then-council chief executive Jim Lindsay had misled the public by promoting the scheme despite knowing of its financial troubles.

“I understand you allege that Cr Pisasale and Mr Lindsay have purposely engaged in dishonest behaviour to deceive the public regarding the Brookwater Resort by improperly promoting it and its developers Brookwater Resort Investments Pty Ltd, despite knowing there were problems with the company as early as August 2015,” Kylee Rumble, the CCC’s director of integrity services, wrote to Mr Duffy on December 6, 2016.

“We have decided that the information you have provided us … does not enliven the CCC’s jurisdiction because the conduct would not, if proved, constitute any criminal offence or be a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for terminating Mr Lindsay’s services.”

Ipswich City Council said it had received a similar complaint regarding the conduct of Cr Pisasale and Mr Lindsay via the Department of Local Government and had investigated it internally.

A council spokesman said city solicitor Dan Best had conducted the probe because “clearly the chief executive can’t investigate himself”, and had found that “the complaint lacked substance”.

“It found there was no evidence to suggest any misleading or deceptive conduct under the n Consumer Law, investment fraud, misconduct under the Local Government Act 2009, a breach of trust, or corrupt conduct,” the spokesman said.

Correspondence seen by Fairfax Media shows an unrelated complainant with knowledge of the scheme began raising issues about the development directly with Cr Pisasale and Mr Lindsay in August 2015.

The correspondence indicates Cr Pisasale’s first action was to tip off Mr Turner about the complaint. The council declined to investigate, telling the complainant in July 2016 that the allegations of “misconduct, malpractice and illegal actions” were for other authorities to deal with.

Mr Turner’s companies are understood to have sold almost all of the 168 units in the first phase of the resort, with two-bed apartments offered at between $580,000 and $800,000.

A real estate agent instructed by Mr Turner, Deric Ly of Global RE in Liverpool, told Fairfax Media there were hopes to pre-sell a second phase of the resort, involving a further 130 residential units.

The land earmarked for the first phase of the resort has since June this year been owned by Lendings Pty Ltd, a company controlled by the Melbourne-based Hunt family. It has had no dealings with Mr Turner.

Springfield Land Corporation, which owns the rest of the land intended for the resort, said it had terminated all its development option agreements with Mr Turner in October 2016.

But Mr Turner’s lawyer denied this, saying the assertion that the option agreements were terminated “is not consistent with what our client has instructed us is the current arrangement”.

His solicitor, Joe Welch of Gold Coast firm Hickey Lawyers, has said that to the best of his client’s knowledge, sales had been made according to the relevant laws regulating the sale of proposed lots.

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