EXCLUSIVE Ripped-off Nant investors say cops have put investigation on ice
TASMANIA Police is yet to hire a forensic accountant or speak with the man behind the failed Nant whisky barrel buyback scheme — prompting accusations from ripped-off investors that the investigation is not being taken seriously.
Police vowed in August last year to look at several complaints of a “fraudulent nature” made by Nant investors. But creditors say they are yet to receive any updates, with more than 15 investors contacting the Mercury this week to express their frustrations.
One of those, Kai Howells, said: “The investigation has been half-arsed and hasn’t been properly resourced.
“They contacted me asking for some documentation but I’ve never heard from them again. It’s thrown in the too-hard basket.”
Serious Organised Crime Unit Detective Inspector Glen Ball said the case was progressing but was still expected to take “some months”. been FULL REPORT PAGES 4-5
INVESTORS ripped off in the Nant whisky barrel buyback scheme believe Tasmania Police has put the investigation in the “too hard basket”, despite putting six detectives on the case.
The Mercury understands Tasmania Police is yet to hire a forensic accountant or speak with the man behind the scheme — bankrupt Brisbane property developer Keith Batt — because of a lack of funding.
Police announced that they would look at several complaints of a “fraudulent nature” made by Nant investors in August last year. But creditors say they are yet to receive any updates, with more than 15 investors contacting the Mercury in the past five days to express their frustrations.
Kai Howells, of Melbourne, said he believed Mr Batt had pocketed up to $20 million of investors’ money.
“The Tasmania Police investigation has been half-arsed and hasn’t been properly resourced,” he said.
“They contacted me asking for some documentation but I’ve never heard from them again. It’s been thrown in the too hard basket, but he should be held to account and see his day in court.”
Brisbane mother-of-two Marcia Fryk, who lost $30,000 on her Nant investment, also said it appeared Mr Batt had got off scot-free.
“Again the little people lose out and the big business people can do what they like without any fear of reprisal or punishment,” she said.
Serious Organised Crime Unit Detective Inspector Glen Ball said the case — believed to be the biggest fraud/theft ever investigated by Tasmania Police — was progressing but was still expected to take “some months” to complete.
“Due to the complex nature of the case, the investigation team has been increased to a total of six detectives,” he said.
“The team has contacted a number of potentially affected parties — in Tasmania, interstate and overseas — as part of the criminal investigation.
“As the investigation is ongoing, it’s not appropriate to comment further.”
About 900 investors are believed to have purchased barrels of whisky for up to $15,000 each after production began at the Nant distillery in Bothwell in 2008.
Nant sold barrels under 13 different investment schemes, promising to buy the barrels back in four years for a 9.55 per cent per annum compound return. But payday never arrived for many investors and suspicions started to grow.
Nant was sold to Australian Whisky Holdings in February 2017 and the new owner quickly discovered what investors had feared, with an audit revealing that more than 1330 barrels did not exist.
The audit also found that there was a large quantity of barrels which had been decanted, bottled and sold, but the barrel investors had not been told or paid.
Craft Works Whisky Company owner Craig Field bought two barrels as part of his new business in 2015, arranging with Nant to bottle the whisky independently once matured.
He was initially Tt Ap told by AWH that his barrels were tt filled but a further audit discovered that was not the case.
“Finding out my barrels never existed was soul destroying,” he said.
“This is a $20 million whitecollar crime fraud and there doesn’t seem to be any urgency at all by Tasmania Police. [Mr Batt] has ... just got away with it.
“The Australia craft spirits industry is growing at a phenomenal rate and these sorts of situations are a blight on the industry and they need to be addressed.”
Malcolm Brown, from the state’s North-West, had only four of his nine barrels filled. He said the stress caused to him and his family could “never have a dollar value put against it”.
“We are hardworking people with a young family and it has not been easy on our back pocket or our life and we will not even get half of our investment back,” he said.
“The frustration that it causes through lack of answers makes me sick in the stomach.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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that The T frustration it causes t through lack of answers makes me sick in the stomach Investor MALCOLM BROWN
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