29 Aug 2013

Ross admits all charges over Ponzi scheme

9:52 pm on 29 August 2013

The director of a Ponzi scheme in which investors lost $400 million has pleaded guilty to all the charges laid against him.

David Ross, 63, of Ross Asset Management appeared in Wellington District Court on five charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office and three laid by the Financial Markets Authority.

The charges included obtaining by deception, false accounting and providing false information to the FMA.

Documents show he set up Beavis Marks, a fictitious entity, and provided potential investors with information showing it to be in good financial shape.

Defence lawyer Gary Turkington said bail was not being sought pending sentencing.

Judge Geoff Ellis remanded Ross in custody to reappear on 24 October to set a sentencing date.

In a Ponzi scheme, returns to investors actually come from their own money or that of other investors.

Ross 'troubled' - lawyer

Gary Turkington told Checkpoint his client was very troubled about what has happened but very little money was available to compensate those who lost money.

"A number of these investors were personal friends of his. A large number have lost significant sums of money.

"He's doing what he can to make reparation but frankly with the scant resources that he now has it will be a drop in the bucket, probably only about $2 to $3 million."

Mr Turkington says the money was not spent on lavish treats but repaid people who went into the fund earlier.

He says there is no evidence of a secret fund anywhere.

The Serious Fraud Office says it expects Ross to receive a lengthy prison sentence.

Spokesperson Graham Gill told Checkpoint the guilty plea doesn't address the significant losses incurred by the large number of investors, who will have to live with the impact of his offending for many years.

'No effort to trace money' - investor

Outside court Bruce Tichbon, who leads a group of investors seeking to recover some of the money they lost, said they hoped he received a long sentence.

Mr Tichborn says there may be a small recovery of assets after sentencing but most of the investors' money seems to have disappeared.

"His crime is very comparable to Bernard Madoff, who got 150 years, and that's the standard in other jurisdictions. We hope we're going to see a similar sentence in this country."

Mr Tichbon says there has been no concerted effort by authorities to trace where investors' money has gone.

He says it was recently found that Ross had a family trust no-one knew about, with shares in it worth $250,000.

Mr Tichbon says the authorities have clearly not done any forensic accounting.

He says investors face a legal mess trying to get their money back and they are concerned they will be still be fighting for it when Ross gets out of jail