Judicial oversight will be retained as investors duped by Ponzi scheme creator Melissa Caddick try to recover some of the $23 million they are owed.
On Monday, the Federal Court declared the mother-of-one, who vanished on November 12 last year, had provided unlicensed financial advice between 2012 and 2020 and ordered her company Maliver be wound up.
Liquidators who had been acting on a provisional basis were also made permanent.
However, the liquidators will still require court approval before taking possession of Ms Caddick and Maliver’s property, realising assets and distributing the proceeds of those sales.
They include the $6 million Dover Heights home, from where Ms Caddick vanished the day after the corporate regulator raided the eastern suburbs property. Her husband, Anthony Koletti, still lives in the home.
Ms Caddick is considered likely deceased, after the remains of her foot washed up on a NSW beach in February.
The unusual circumstances of the case included her disappearance, complexities arising from potential claims by non-investors over Ms Caddick’s property and the potential for different classes of investors making different claims, Justice Brigitte Markovic said.
From October 2012, Ms Caddick collected more than $30 million from 72 so-called investors, most of whom were family and friends and all of whom expected their funds would be invested on their behalf.
“Instead, [the funds] were used to meet Ms Caddick’s personal expenses and purchase assets in her name,” Justice Markovic said on Monday.
Based on the liquidators’ report, the court found investors were owed $23,554,921.
That figure is subject to any potential “unjust enrichment or uncommercial transaction” claims related to Caddick paying out returns that were fictitious or possibly inflated.
Maliver, whose sole director was Ms Caddick, traded on another person’s Australian Financial Services Licence. Neither the company nor Ms Caddick ever held an AFSL while providing a financial service, the judge found.
That breached the corporations act.
The court’s full reasons are expected to be released on Wednesday once parties agree on what sensitive information should be redacted.
The decision comes after a hearing in June and July in which Justice Markovic was told of Ms Caddick’s “quite elaborate fraud” that followed a repeated pattern.
Ms Caddick would convince potential investors of her prowess in creating wealth, interview them and advise them of an investment strategy.
She told one investor: “I don’t need to do this … I’m doing it to help people and it’s very much restricted to family and friends”, according to that investor’s affidavit.
Statements purporting to be from online stockbroking firm CommSec and in investors’ names were provided. But the accounts didn’t exist.
About half of the investors also established self-managed superannuation funds to facilitate investments, regulator Australian Securities and Investments Commission told the hearing.
Ms Caddick’s parents are among those making claims, after handing their daughter $1.03 million on the understanding they would own part of an Edgecliff home and, importantly, have life tenancy.
If not for their daughter’s representations, the parents – now aged in their 80s – would have bought a smaller property in their own name in Sydney’s southern suburbs, the court was told in July.
The coroner’s report into Ms Caddick’s presumed death is yet to be handed down.