“The OFT is continuing with its own investigation with a view to getting the best outcome for affected consumers.
“As this investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for the OFT to comment further at this stage.”
The QPS confirmed its Financial and Cyber Crime Group was investigating but declined further comment.
Fraud squad detectives have so far interviewed at least one key witness, although lawyers for some of the 160 small investors, who each paid between $40,000 and $160,000 to secure furnished apartments with guaranteed rental returns overlooking the Greg Norman-designed Brookwater golf course, said they were yet to be contacted.
Mr Turner’s Brookwater scheme, for a hotel, shopping centre and luxury holiday apartments, was heavily supported and promoted by the former mayor of Ipswich Paul Pisasale and his then-deputy Paul Tully.
Both councillors attended a lavish sod-turning ceremony at the site in September 2016, even though Mr Turner’s company had lost possession of it two days earlier after failing to make interest payments.
Mr Pisasale and Mr Tully each visited Dusit Thani facilities in Thailand in 2016 as part of Mr Turner’s efforts to lobby for the project. Mr Tully received free accommodation on his trip, which was not disclosed in his register of interests.
Mr Tully updated his register of interests after the story was reported by Brisbane Times.
Dusit Thani, an international luxury hotel group whose branding has been used heavily in promoting the Brookwater development, has recently moved to distance itself from Mr Turner and the resort plan.
In a statement on its website, Dusit Thani describes its hotel development operation in Australia, which would have been its first project here, as “terminated”.
“Dusit no longer has any contractual arrangements with the proposed developer,” the company states.
“Dusit did not provide advisory services, nor will it manage any resort that might be built. To the extent that any marketing literature (including brochures or statements on websites) suggest otherwise, it is incorrect. Dusit has demanded that any such representations cease.”
The site on Magnolia Drive in Springfield remains vacant, but still carries signage for Dusit Thani.
Its new owner, Melbourne-based Lendings Pty Ltd, is considering developing the site. But the status of people who invested through Mr Turner’s companies or their role in any future development is unclear, since it is not known where money allegedly not paid into a trust account ended up.
Documents showed that after the land-owning company went into receivership, Mr Turner collected more than $3 million in deposits from Australian and Vietnamese buyers and used “black market” intermediaries to move money from Vietnam to Australia and into accounts controlled by him.
Company documents indicated half a million dollars in deposits was collected in October 2017 alone. They also claimed more than $6 million of the $10.2 million collected in total since 2015 was not being held in a trust account in Queensland.
Deposits for real estate in Queensland must be paid immediately into a secure trust account, regardless of where the buyer is.
Sources with knowledge of Mr Turner’s operation said it had had no source of income other than deposit monies since 2015.
Mr Turner has previously denied any wrongdoing through his solicitors, which stated: “All sales have, to the best or our client’s knowledge, been made according to the relevant laws that regulate the sale of proposed lots.”
“All deposit monies provided to this firm are held in trust as required by law and invested as permitted by law,” Hickey Lawyers said.
Correspondence obtained by Brisbane Times showed that from as early as August 2015 onwards, the corporate watchdog ASIC, Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission, the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, and Ipswich City Council received complaints about possible misrepresentation by Mr Pisasale and his then-chief executive Jim Lindsay in supporting the Brookwater resort scheme.
All the bodies determined they would not take action.
Mr Pisasale and Mr Lindsay face a series of unrelated criminal charges stemming from the CCC’s Operation Windage investigation into Ipswich City Council, which has led to 86 charges against 15 people for a range of offences.
Mark Solomons is an investigative journalist for Brisbane Times.