Court probe to uncover high-profile builder collapses

 

LIQUIDATOR Michael Caspaney is waiting for his day in court as he investigates two of the state's high-profile building company collapses.

Mr Caspaney, principal of Menzies Advisory, will lead a public examination in the Federal Court this year into the circumstances behind the collapse of Cullen Group Australia and Queensland One Homes.

Cullen Group collapsed in December 2016 owing creditors about $45 million. Queensland One Homes went under in July 2017 with more than $5.9 million estimated to be owed to subbies, financiers and the Australian Taxation Office.

Mr Caspaney said the public examination would help determine whether the companies had exceeded their financial limits and been involved in alleged phoenix operations. Phoenixing is the creation of new companies to avoid paying creditors.

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Cullen Group Australia was working on Boheme Apartments at Robina when the company collapsed. Picture: Steve Holland
Cullen Group Australia was working on Boheme Apartments at Robina when the company collapsed. Picture: Steve Holland

 

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission is contributing $300,000 to fund the separate public examinations into the two companies.

 

Housing and Public Works Minister Mick De Brenni said evidence uncovered during public examination proceedings could theoretically assist police to bring criminal charges against individual directors.

"It could uncover further details about how the companies operated and examine the affairs of the key parties and decision makers," Mr De Brenni said.

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The QBCC has referred both companies to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for suspected illegal phoenix activity.

Mr Caspaney said the public examination powers contained in the Corporations Act was a powerful weapon in a liquidator's hands.

 

Brett Bassett, Commissioner for QLD Building and Construction Commission.
Brett Bassett, Commissioner for QLD Building and Construction Commission.

 

"It gives us quasi-judicial powers and we can compel directors and other officers of a company to appear," he said. "My main job is to get a better return for creditors." He said as well as looking at the actions of directors, the public examination also would examine the role of developers in the collapse of the companies.

 

QBCC commissioner Brett Bassett said the public examination would further assist authorities to get to the bottom of two significant building company collapses.

The directors of Cullen Group and One Homes have denied any wrongdoing. More than 1400 companies in the state's construction sector have entered administration in the past five years.



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