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BFCSA: ASIC fails again.... resulting in more innocent victims being terrorised and financially crippled

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Fraudster's mask of terror lifted as Gold Coast developer jailed

Michael Girardo and Nicholas Paul Michaelides

Mario Girardo and Nicholas Michaelides were sentenced to 4 1/2 and six years respectively.   Source: Gold Coast Bulletin

EVERYONE wanted to know Mario Girardo in the heady days of easy credit and windfall profits accompanying the Gold Coast's spectacular property boom before the global financial crisis.

In Melbourne, Girardo was reputed to have been bankrolled by mafia drug money but in Surfers Paradise he started afresh and pulled off a corporate makeover by trading the beachfront.

By restyling himself as a cleanskin, a property developer with a knack for turning fast deals into rich premiums and a respected voice in the community, Girardo's convictions for fraud and bans on him managing corporations were overlooked or ignored.

At Westpac Bank and other providers of credit, Girardo and his companies enjoyed favoured status and the backing of tens of millions of dollars in loans. The lenders did not detect his criminal record. ASIC failed to uphold his ban on managing corporations.

He wooed bankers, local politicians, business figures and princes of real estate, particularly Michael Kollosche, who would become the most successful residential salesman in the history of Ray White Group via dozens of multi-million-dollar deals, including several with Girardo.

Mr Kollosche has always denied any impropriety.

Knight Corporation and other companies Girardo established and managed, despite the bans, were his vehicles for highly geared transactions. He bought and sold property at the most coveted addresses of Mermaid Beach, reaping profits of more than $4 million after ownership of just a few months.

He was celebrated in local media as the face of a $300m proposal to develop the Southport Spit. Confidential email trails show that at one point he was backing himself to buy vitamin magnate Vaughan Bullivant's Daydream Island for almost $100m.

But Girardo's enterprise was matched by his aggression. Yesterday, in the Southport District Court, it was his undoing. When he wanted a terrified and unwitting businessman, Ian Anderson, to pay him $300,000 after a soured deal, Girardo did not ask nicely. He recruited a "heavy" debt collector and gunman, Nicholas Michaelides, to abduct the family man and threaten to kill him.

Michaelides met Mr Anderson in Gold Coast bushland, showed him a hole where he told him he would be buried, pointed a gun at his head, held up photographs of his teenage son and daughter and told him to choose which one of his children would also die.

Michaelides pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire.

Mr Anderson wept uncontrollably during court proceedings when he recalled the encounter with Michaelides: "He was saying: '. . . I'm here for Mario and I'm going to do you now. Mario's money is mafia money, it's drug money -- we want it back now.' "

"He said: 'You don't get out of it that easy, you pick which one (of your children) goes with you.'

The misfire has haunted Mr Anderson, who had "heard that click every day" since. His family and businesses collapsed under the strain.

Judge Terry Martin SC, who sentenced Girardo and Michaelides to a total of 10 1/2 years, described the crime as terrifying, adding it had taken a heavy emotional toll on Mr Anderson. He said the two men had shown "absolutely no remorse".

The Australian can reveal that Girardo bought properties worth more than $30m in the 18 months after his arrest for extortion. He contributed to lengthy delays to his criminal trial by repeatedly firing his legal team, then proclaimed himself a born-again Buddhist monk. Westpac, which is owed more than $9m by Girardo, put him into bankruptcy but the bank and other creditors have no prospect of repayment.

Girardo's role in an elaborate fraud that used hidden "put-and-call" options to artificially inflate Mermaid Beach property prices can be disclosed as a result of his jailing yesterday. For legal reasons, he could be referred to only as "Mr A" in an investigation by The Australian last year because at that time he was facing trial over the extortion.

Rod Lambert, a Gold Coast resident and investor, said Girardo had left a trail of destruction because regulators failed to enforce their own bans and banks and other lenders did not perform due diligence. One finance company, East Coast Mortgage Trust in Lismore, northern NSW, lent Girardo almost $4m after he had been committed to trial for extortion in 2008.

Mr Lambert told ASIC in a written complaint: "When Mr Girardo finally faces justice and the truth is exposed, the public will be outraged to think this criminal was buying multi-million-dollar properties and undertaking other acts of defrauding innocent people while being disqualified from managing a corporation.

"The public, police, my wife and I want to know why ASIC allowed this convicted criminal and fraudster to continue to manage and operate legitimate registered corporations when he should have been 'red-flagged' as a convicted criminal, who was disqualified from managing a corporation."

He said if ASIC had done its job, the public would not have "had their life's work destroyed after being defrauded of millions of dollars by a convicted criminal while he hid behind a corporate mask".

ASIC has defended its role and said it would consider "what, if any, further action may be warranted" following the verdict. Mr Lambert has been helping Fair Trading investigators and police who are probing the price-fixing at Mermaid Beach and the actions of Mr Kollosche, who has accused Mr Lambert of running a vendetta against him and the Ray White Group. He has told The Australian he made an error of judgment when he signed a $99,000 personal guarantee for a deposit by Girardo on a property.

Mr Lambert and other investors are adamant Mermaid Beach's record prices before the GFC were "bogus", the result of valuers and buyers being misled.

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  • doyla66
    doyla66 Saturday, 22 March 2014

    OK, who else out there paid over inflated prices on their blocks of land back in the day and are now trapped in a jumbo loan, and now 5 or so years later are facing the prospect of being financially crippled by your bank.

    Banks threw money at us based on those inflated valuations, (in house assessors would tweak these valuations even higher to ensure the deal would fit THEIR LVR ratios) with no regard to our ability to repay these loans.. LOC, buffer moneys, refinancing all done to skew the statistics... no systemic issues "they say" ... everything is fine........ all lies, lies, lies. ASIC knows it, APRA knows it, the AFP knows it, and now thanks to BFCSA we know it too!

    Hard working Aussies have been conned out of their life's hard work. This mortgage scam is a huge scandal and the sooner our Lower House politicians realise it and get rid of ASIC as a Consumer protector and start using the Laws already in place to jail these banksters and force the banks to give us back the houses and money they stole by their fraudulent actions the better!

    For example in my area in Northern NSW a beach front vacant block of land in 2007 sold for $2,700,000 according to ...yet the RECENT Re Sale was $710,000

    People are stuck with jumbo mortgages, paying banks hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest (interest only loans) until they can't take it anymore... nothing is coming off the principal as it is interest only for 5 years, the buffer money to afford the repayments has run out, the credit cards are maxed out.. and after fighting to save our homes, our savings, people face the prospect of losing everything when they should be looking forward to a comfortable retirement.... Many of us now face losing (or have already) our homes, our health, marriage and hard earned money and life's savings....... all because the Banks conned us into believing we could afford these loans...... Any prudent lender would have rejected our applications on the spot. This is criminal and evil. Banks manipulate the housing bubbles.. and get ready for the bubble to burst when the interest rates climb again next year as Westpac economist has declared.

  • doyla66
    doyla66 Saturday, 22 March 2014

    10 1/2 years is a flea bite for what these sleaze bags did!

    10 1/2 years!?
    Where's the deterrent in that?!!
    These sleaze bags will be out in a short time. Look at what they've done to their victims and how long they suffer - forever!
    Qld Attorney General should appeal this sentence and double it.
    How else can we teach our kids to have zero tolerance on crime and always avoid criminal activities?

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