Pivotal Queensland party One Nation ploughed $500k into an investment group that are keeping Mission Beach property tied up and not returning investment monies promised to shareholders.
The Tourism News reported last month on how Melbournite James Mawhinney’s investment group of companies engaged in an ambitious would-be development of Mission Beach, which, whilst ambitious if it was to go well, showed signs of failing in 2019.
When COVID hit, Mawhinney was still hanging on to large sections of the development, seemingly in denial about cutting losses, even though returns to investors were at stake. In particular, Mawhinney’s companies were unable to make the committed payments on Dunk Island to the extent that the vendor has made moves to return the island to the market.
The Tourism News is taking an ongoing interest in this story because ill-considered investments tie up land that could be utilised for quality tourism infrastructure or as part of other investments that will come to fruition faster.
Especially during this late 2020 period, when so much government stimulus is available for all sorts of investment, it’s damaging to the industry to have prime real estate tied up.
The Tourism News, 12th October 2020
Image is of James Mawhinney.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation likely to take big hit on bad investment
From The Australian, 26th September 2020
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation sank $500,000 into a deeply troubled investment fund that has been likened to a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme, blowing a hole in the party’s finances ahead of next month’s election in her home state of Queensland.
Senator Hanson immediately distanced herself from the potentially disastrous investment in James Mawhinney’s stricken Mayfair Group, saying the decision was taken by the One Nation executive without her knowledge or consent. She emphasised it would not affect state election planning because the campaign budget had been set and separately secured.
But party officials were scrambling on Friday to ascertain whether the money could be retrieved after provisional liquidators warned that investors in one of the company’s failed investment funds, promoted by its Mayfair 101 arm, may not recover a cent.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Hanson party, gearing up for the October 31 election that will make or break its fortunes at the state level in its electoral heartland.
Returns to the Queensland Electoral Commission for the first six months of the year and filed under Senator Hanson’s name show the $500,000 was pumped into Mayfair Platinum debentures paying interest above the standard bank rate.
After obtaining court orders banning Mr Mawhinney from promoting Mayfair’s M+ Fixed Income Notes and M Core Fixed Income Notes or signing up new customers for them, corporate regulator ASIC this month moved to have provisional liquidators appointed to Mayfair 101. Another Mayfair entity, the $80m IPO Wealth Fund, was frozen in July and the assets wound up.
One Nation had piled into the M+ product, taken in by advertising that equated it to a term deposit with the bank when this has been alleged to be a sham. The debentures it bought are in fact unsecured, according to the Mayfair Group.
The viability of the M+ notes remains in doubt as ASIC investigators unravel the financial house of cards allegedly created by 36-year-old Mr Mawhinney, underpinned by tourism investments including the $31.5m purchase of the Dunk Island resort in far north Queensland and property acquisitions at nearby Mission Beach, some of which have not been settled. The self-styled entrepreneur maintains the group at all times operated in the best interests of investors and within regulatory guidelines.
A One Nation representative was assured on Friday by Mayfair’s senior investor relations manager that the M+ notes were not affected by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission crackdown. This was because they were issued by a section of the business, M101 Holdings, that was not under investigation by the regulator, or in administration or receivership.
But Milan Cakic of Sydney’s MC Lawyers and Advisers, which is setting up a class action on behalf of Mayfair Group investors, said the operation was structured like “a classic Ponzi scheme” and he was “not particularly confident” any debenture holders would be repaid.
“Whilst we are still conducting investigations, we would be surprised if there was much left in the way of assets in the M+ fund,” he told The Weekend Australian.
One Nation bought two lots of M+ notes in March, each worth $250,000, on six-month terms that achieved maturity on September 9, a week after ASIC lowered the boom on the Mayfair 101 fund. The One Nation officer who contacted the company was told the party’s investment would be refunded “in weeks”, but failed to secure a guarantee this would happen or date for the transfer.
Senator Hanson’s chief of staff, James Ashby, conceded the funds could be lost. “The chances of getting this money back look progressively worse, day by day, for our situation,” he said. “The one point I want to make is that we have never put all our eggs in one basket.
“Yes, this is a hit to the party if such a loss does occur. But it will not sink us as we have never ever risked our members’ money.”
A furious Senator Hanson said the decision to invest was taken at a meeting of the One Nation executive attended by neither she nor Mr Ashby. She had not met Mr Mawhinney and was unaware of the party’s exposure to Mayfair’s travails until contacted by The Weekend Australian.
“We watch every cent. We are not like these other organisations that have credit cards and go out and waste their money,” she said. “James and I do not get paid for anything we do with the party … I have always advocated transparency, honesty and working for the people and I do that exactly through the organisation. If it be the case this is a big mistake that has been made, we were not aware of it.”
Despite pulling 13.7 per cent of the vote at the 2017 Queensland election, One Nation won only one state seat and is desperate to make amends on October 31. However, The Australian’s July 31 Newspoll showed its support had slipped to 11 per cent statewide.
Donations have also dried up, amplifying the impact of any Mayfair losses. Electoral commission disclosure logs show that One Nation’s Queensland division received only $8650 in declared donations so far this year; the total since 2016, after the party was revived under Senator Hanson’s leadership, stands at $302,724, dwarfed by the sum it would lose if the Mayfair investment failed.
Provisional liquidator Said Jahani, of accountants Grant Thornton Australia, said in Friday’s report to the Federal Court that M Core investors in Mayfair 101 had little or no hope of clawing back their money if the fund were wound up. “I estimate the return to creditors from the assets of the company will be nil,” he warned.