An email claiming to have recovered $64 million of the almost $200 million lost in the fraudulent Wattle scheme has been labelled as “particularly repellent” by ASIC.

In a statement released yesterday, Greg Tanzer, ASIC executive director consumer protection, said the email from an alleged UK-based investment lawyer called Richard Briggs offering a share of the $64 million proceeds for transferring the money was “entirely bogus”. “This email bears all the hallmarks of a typical advance fee fraud, where promises are made to unsuspecting people in order to extract various fees from them or, worse still, gain access to their bank accounts. Of course, the victims will never receive any money,” Tanzer said. “This case is a particularly repellent example of how low fraudsters will sink to exploit others. The Wattle scheme was one of Australia’s worst investment frauds, involving nearly 3,000 people and funds of some $200 million.” In the email Briggs claimed the $64 million remaining from the Wattle scheme, which ASIC closed down in 1998, was sitting in a London trust account of a Panamanian corporation and offered 20 per cent of that to investors who would facilitate a bank transfer of the funds. Tanzer said Wattle bankruptcy trustees and the scheme’s liquidators confirmed no money had been sent to London or Panama. “To suggest that there’s money from Wattle located offshore is a cruel hoax against those who lost money and a fraud against anyone who may think they can access these fictitious funds,” he said. Geoffrey Dexter, head of the Wattle group, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for his part in the scam in 2001 and 10 financial planners were also banned for one to five years from acting as investment advisers following their involvement in the scheme. The Wattle scam was a ‘Ponzi’ operation where investors were paid purely out of new money coming into the fund rather than through any legitimate investment activity. ASIC received the Briggs email as part of its ‘Pie in the sky’ awards for examples of “outrageous” financial schemes. “This entry will certainly be a strong contender,” ASIC said.

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