The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and (alleged) Corruption – which is currently sitting in Sydney, whenever its highly paid staff can be bothered getting out of bed – has made much ado about the supposed misbehavior of the construction union CFMEU at a then building site – and now apartment complex – in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley called the Brooklyn on Brookes.
According to Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon the CFMEU’s attempts to get decent wages and conditions for its members working at the site were a crime, and he has referred a number of the union’s officials to police in regard to their conduct. The files are we imagine stored safely in the QPS wastebasket, because in the almost six months since the referral was made not a single charge has been laid. And nor should they, not against the union men anyway.
However there are some major issues regarding the Brooklyn on Brookes that should not simply be left to rest; the primary question being why the Federal Government has committed to pay more than $20 million in rent subsidies to owners of units in a complex that was built with stolen money.
That’s right, the Australian taxpayer – you and I – have been signed up to a 10 year contract worth $2.16 million a year under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) to help pay the mortgages of rich investors who have purchased units from a company that has funded its share of the joint venture with the proceeds of crime.
The company in question is Pearls Australasia – also known as the Mii Group, Mii Home, and Mii Property – who partnered with Queensland property developer David Devine’s Metro Property Group to build the Brooklyn on Brookes.
The joint venture between the companies has also built the Chelsea Apartments at Bowen Hills and the Meridian Apartments at Mayne; owner of units in these complexes also receive tens of millions from government in NRAS rental subsidies.
We’ll tell you a lot more about NRAS in later articles, because it’s one of the greatest rorts and con-jobs ever pulled on the Australian public, but for now let’s concentrate on Pearls Australasia, because the parent company Pearls Group is owned and run by one of the greatest crooks currently walking the earth.
The bloke in questions name is Nirmal Singh Bangoo (above), the owner of the Pearls Group; a one time Indian milkman who in the space of a couple of decades became a billionaire. His extraordinary rise was for many years a poor boy made good success story, and he rubbed shoulders with politicians, sportsmen and film stars in India and abroad.
But not any more. Not since it was discovered that his wealth was built on a mirage, and that rather than being a brilliant businessman with a Midas touch, he was in fact one of the world’s greatest con men; the operator of the second largest Ponzi scheme in history, a pyramid sales scheme that has fleeced investors of up to $9 billion dollars. That’s nine thousand million bucks – Australian – for the numerically challenged, an absolute fortune.
Bhangoo’s scheme was breathtaking in its simplicity. Using two companies named Pearls Agrotech Corporation Limited (PACL) and Pearls Golden Forest Limited (PGFL), Bhangoo and his business partners – all family members – ran an investment scheme promising to double investors deposits in six years, and quadruple them in ten.
Using thousands of commission agents, most of them desperately poor unemployed youth who he trained in the hard sell, Bhangoo’s companies promised investors security on their deposits in the form of parcels of land from the 185 000 acres in the Punjab that the companies claimed to own; the investors were told that upon maturity of their deposits the land, and the doubled and quadrupled investments, were theirs. The vast majority of the land of course didn’t exist, and that which did was primarily rugged mountainous terrain that was unusable for anything other herding goats.
It was a classic Ponzi scheme. Early investors were paid the promised interest, the Ponzi salesmen recruited other salesmen and were paid commissions on their commissions, and as the word quickly spread about the wonderful investment returns being paid millions of investors were knocking down the Pearls companies doors to hand over their cash to Bhangoo and his associates for safekeeping.
For almost a decade all was well, but all Ponzi schemes have a use-by date, and what investors didn’t know was that Bhangoo was siphoning off their hard-earned dough and, through a complicated maze of off-shore shelf companies, transferring to Pearls companies overseas, in particular to sunny old Australia, home of the government-funded NRAS scheme. Here the stolen loot was washed sparkling clean by being invested in hotels (more about that later), retirement homes, and property developments such as the now infamous Brooklyn on Brookes.
Bhangoo’s money was welcomed with open arms, and he was feted by politicians such as Anna Bligh, Kevin Rudd and later Campbell Newman. Former LNP Housing Minister and now much-feted aspirational leadership contender Tim Mander was a big fan, lauding the ‘wonderful job’ Pearls had done in boosting Brisbane’s affordable housing stocks, which at $450 a week for a 2 bedroom apartment weren’t cheap at all, unless of course you are earning $318 000 a year as a State Government Minister.
I wonder what Mander (pictured above)thinks of Pearls now?
Even more pertinently, I wonder why the taxpayer is spending zillions of dollars funding a Royal Commission that wants unionists jailed for striking over workplace safety at a building site, when the real criminals are the people whose building site it is.
And most of all I wonder what is going to happen to the government-subsidised investment units of the wealthy property investors at Brooklyn on Brookes, and at the Chelsea Apartments and the Meridian Apartments when the international policing authorities, who have frozen more than 1000 of Pearls bank accounts and cancelled Bhangoo’s passport as he awaits trial and a certain jail sentence for his wholesale frauds, come knocking on Australia’s door and say “Hey cobber, we want those proceeds of crime back”?