Two weekends ago disgraced former rich lister Craig Gore appeared to be on top of the world as he tore big game fishing trophies from the walls of the Waterfront Restaurant in the sleepy Queensland town of Cardwell and threw them into the marina.
It was as much a demonstration of the twice-bankrupt banned businessman’s apparent dislike for fellow white-shoe brigadeer Keith Williams (who had owned the trophies) as it was a boorish mark of ownership over the $450 million luxury resort and estate development for which he is a consultant.
Craig Gore in happier times with one of WPS Racing’s V8 cars. Photo: Robert Rough
Fast forward to Easter Saturday, and Gore, 50, was struggling with his large roller suitcase as he left the Brisbane watchhouse after being charged with 12 counts of fraud.
He was slapped with three further charges of making decisions for a business while being disqualified from managing corporations. According to reports, he plans to fight the charges and denies wrongdoing. Fairfax Media unsuccessfully attempted to contact him.
Police had picked up Gore on the way to catch a flight to Stockholm, the city from which his young Swedish wife Marina hails.
None of the charges relate to Gore’s activities at the Hinchinbrook Harbour development and The Passage Holdings, an Australian company headed by David Haubert an American who is a local councillor in the San Francisco region of Dublin.
Instead the charges of making decisions for a business for a business while being disqualified relate in part to a superannuation scheme run by Gold Coast group ActiveSuper and Marina’s MOGS Financial Services.
The scheme raised $4.75 million from investors around Australia, including scores in Melbourne and Sydney, to invest in US residential property.
Craig Gore was arrested and charged on Easter Saturday with fraud offences. Photo: Glenn Hunt
In 2015 the Federal Court found in a civil case brought against Gore by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission that only $450,000 was ever spent on its intended purposes and the rest was used by Gore, Marina and their associates to furnish their lavish lifestyles including luxury vehicles and corporate jets.
The Federal Court later banned Gore permanently from operating in financial services after finding the money had been misappropriated.
Port Hinchinbrook in Far North Queensland is getting a make over. Photo: Supplied
Marina was also banned for five years and in February lost an appeal against her disqualification order.
At the time the case was being run, Gore was banned as a director by virtue of him being a bankrupt who owed his creditors, including British peer Lord Michael Ashcroft, more than $300 million.
Michael Gore, right, at the launch of Sanctuary Cove in 1987. Photo: Quentin Jones
The fraud charges relate to the $795,000 he allegedly dishonestly gained from superannuants to the benefit of Arion Financial.
Arion was a business that sprung up in the midst of the Gore’s Federal Court matter regarding MOGS raising funds from self-managed superannuation funds to roll out a residential development in outer Melbourne.
Its website was eerily similar in design to that of another company, Sleipner Financial, which listed Marina as a director and continued to raise money from SMSFs for property investments during the Federal Court case.
Already financial services house IOOF’s My Adviser subsidiary has had to fork out $2 million in compensation to people who invested in Sleipner and Arion.
My Adviser was also hit with an enforceable undertaking by ASIC after an investigation found the company was aware its planners were doing deals with Gore despite him being at the time accused of misappropriating client money in the ActiveSuper case.
Gore’s arrest could mark business rock bottom for the property developer who was once one of the Gold Coast’s biggest tycoons.
Gore’s financial services house Wright Patton Shakespeare was once one of the largest development players around Australia. It’s tentacles reached into projects from Melbourne, to Sydney and deep into the Gold Coast’s pre-financial crisis development boom. It spawned a V8 Supercar team, WPS Racing, and wineries and other luxury property ventures.
The collapse of Gore’s empire in the wake of the global financial crisis created a domino effect that evaporated hundreds of thousands of Australians’ life savings through the collapse of financier City Pacific, which ran a mortgage fund that gave Gore’s company’s a $1 billion line of credit.
Nearly 10 years on, it is expected Gore’s arrest will cast a pall over Cardwell and the Hinchinbrook Harbour development.
Williams, an associate of Gore’s late father and Sanctuary Cove founder Mike Gore snr, had tried and mostly failed in turning Hinchinbrook Harbour into a major development despite his earlier success with Sea World and Hamilton Island.
When Cyclone Yasi ripped into Cardwell in 2011, the marina and its buildings were irrevocably damaged by the massive storm.
Last year a group of American businessmen, with more ties to Gore than they have to Australia, bought the existing marina out of administration.
They are now planning a sprawling development with 1500 dwellings, a 266-berth marina, an airport and in a great Queensland tradition – a massive water theme park.
ASIC is understood to be concerned about Gore’s involvement in the project and its Brisbane office is believed to be currently investigating the project.
Though it remains to be seen whether Gore is providing a financial service through his consultancy work for the project.
Haubert confirmed to Fairfax Media on Good Friday, ahead of Gore’s arrest, the fallen tycoon’s involvement in the project.
“Mr Gore is involved in our private project and has been engaged by The Passage Holdings to act as a consultant and to provide advice about the project, primarily because of his experience in property development in Far North Queensland and because of his historical knowledge of this particular project,” Haubert said.
Haubert added that the project was funded by overseas debt finance and its international owners.
“The company is not looking for or seeking any member of the public to be an investor,” Haubert said.
“The Passage Holdings has not in the past, nor does it intend to in the future raise any money from members of the public for the purposes of investing in the project,” he added.
Haubert was not available on Easter Monday to answer follow up questions in the wake of Gore’s arrest.
And Gore did not respond to Fairfax Media’s calls or emails.
Over the weekend the troubled mogul locked his social media accounts and shut down his inspirational blog – a website emblazoned with a phrase that sums up Gore’s view of the world in a nutshell – “A lion does not concern himself with what the sheep think”.