Mystery of secret gold stash found in locked safe

A LOCKED safe at a collapsed foreign exchange broker has finally been opened, revealing a half-million dollars in gold and silver, triggering a legal dispute over who is entitled to it.

Queen St firm Forex Brokers collapsed last month when the company's sole director Russell Maher called in liquidators PKF, who discovered the firm had practically no assets and owed clients - mostly used-car companies - nearly $15m.

The bullion revelation came at a meeting this week called by PKF's Chris McCullagh where liquidators said creditors - of whom more than 30 were in attendance - asked plenty of questions along similar lines.

"Everyone just wants answers - and it's the same question we are asking and authorities are asking - what has happened to the money?" McCullagh said.

Forex Brokers had offered spot foreign exchange transactions for importers, but also appeared - according to creditors spoken to by the Weekend Herald - to have offered clients the opportunity to invest in currency trading schemes.

McCullagh said he had not yet determined when the company had become insolvent.

"The financial statements of the company had been recording it making a profit - not a large one, but a profit nonetheless - in recent years," he said.

McCullagh told Wednesday's creditors meeting reconfirming his appointment, that the company's offices had a locked safe, but Maher said he could not open it.

A third party, understood to be an investor with the company, recently arrived bearing a key that opened the safe, revealing a cache of gold and silver bullion McCullagh said was estimated to be worth $500,000.

The discovery had triggered a dispute over who owned the proceeds - the third party who claimed Forex Brokers was holding the cache on his behalf, or the company's creditors.

McCullagh said who was entitled to the stash was an open question.

"This bullion remains under our control and has been secured, with the agreement of the other party, and we are now working through a legal process to try and determine ownership," he said.

According to property records, a trust connected to Maher and his wife owns two properties, the couple's three-bedroom residence in Mt Eden and a house in Havelock North, with rateable values of $1.3 million and $415,000 respectively.

McCullagh had secured an agreement with the trust for the properties to not be mortgaged or sold without notice to preserve the option of making a claim against them. "It's unclear whether we have a claim at all, only time will tell," he said.

Questions sent to Maher's lawyer Rowan Butler by the Weekend Herald about the properties, the bullion and the company's financial statements went unanswered.

McCullagh said the liquidators had met with the Serious Fraud Office on a few occasions to give access to the computer system and hand over specifically requested records.

A spokeswoman for the SFO this week said: "At this stage the matter is still being evaluated, that process does involve some enquiries but it is not yet an investigation."

- NZ Herald


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