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Land banking schemes have come under the scrutiny of ASIC as investors tell of facing losses instead of getting rich.

Notorious get-rich spruikers Jamie McIntyre and Henry Kaye promise to demystify property and equity wealth but instead have left behind a trail of ruin. One investor says that after paying off their mortgage, they were sucked in by the smooth talking McIntyre and Kaye, who convinced them to redraw their mortgage, combine their superannuation savings, and create a self-managed super fund. They say they received advice from accountants and lawyers who were recommended by McIntyre and Kaye. The funds were used to buy membership in a property club which supposedly would develop property in Shepparton and Bendigo.

Five years later, the developments haven’t turned soil, the company behind the Bendigo development in administration and ASIC moving liquidate five more of McIntyre’s projects.

Over a period of five years, McIntyre and Kaye have sold thousands of “options” on land lots in at least eight land banking schemes in Victoria and Queensland. Conservative estimates suggest more than $100 million has been tipped in.

Now ASIC wants to know: Where is the money? The deluxe developments proposed on the outskirts of Shepparton, Bendigo, Ballarat, Melbourne’s west and south-east, and Townsville, have been spruiked by fast-talking salesmen at seminars organised by 21st Century and Market First.

The targets are Mum-and-Dad investors from across Australia lured by the promise of windfall profits once the farmland is developed for housing. The seminars, conferences, and cocktail gatherings have featured headline-grabbing speakers Virgin founder Richard Branson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, seemingly in an attempt to appear legitimate.  In the wings were 21st Century and Market First’s recommended accountants and lawyers with option contracts, legal disclaimers and self-managed super fund structures.

Of mounting concern to those who scrutinise land banking schemes is the investors’ use of self-managed super funds to buy “options.” The options, costing up to $40,000 each, give buyers the ability to buy a block of land up to 15 years in the future. But they are not legally linked to a land title, and they limit the buyers’ rights, specifically precluding them placing caveats on any property.

Property watchdog and lawyer Tim O’Dwyer says investors should be wary of seminars with an emphasis on emotive words. “They’re targeting people with the view to help them set up a super fund, invest in property and have it all managed through their mates. Usually these scammers don’t want you to go away and get independent legal or financial advice.”

Tim O’Dwyer says investors should always get independent advice from a professional not connected to, or benefiting from, the sale. How else can investors protect themselves from the scammers?

  • Don’t be in a hurry
  • Get advice from your own solicitor, accountant, and property valuer
  • Don’t be afraid to report fraud or abuse to the appropriate authorities.

Investors who find themselves being scammed by land banking spruikers are now in a position where they have no superannuation savings left and they now have a full mortgage on their homes.

You can hear Tim O’Dwyer talking about the signs of a property scam here.

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