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‘Mr Sold’ VCAT case dropped

04 Apr 2013

‘Mr Sold’ VCAT case dropped Image

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) inquiry into former Docklands real estate agent Ali Abbas was withdrawn last month after he failed to appear at a third hearing.

Mr Abbas fled the country in January 2012 and the case was withdrawn until such time that he returns.

The inquiry into Mr Abbas’ company, Worldwide Scope Pty Ltd, continues and Jay Bisset has been identified as the remaining company director.

Mr Bisset appeared at a VCAT hearing on March 14 and said he believed he was not a director after 2009 and that he had no knowledge of the alleged actions of the company.

Consumer Affairs Victoria launched an investigation into Mr Abbas and Worldwide Scope Pty Ltd in November 2011.

Mr Abbas operated a Century 21 franchise in Docklands for two years before closing in 2011.

The Consumer Affairs investigation allegedly uncovered nearly $100,000 worth of trust fund irregularities and led to a VCAT inquiry into both Mr Abbas and Worldwide Scope Pty Ltd.

It has been alleged that Mr Abbas received bonds in cash from multiple tenants and did not lodge the money with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority.

It has also been alleged that rents were paid in cash and were not passed on to landlords.

Mr Abbas failed to attend VCAT hearings on October 26 and December 7 last year.

At the March 14 VCAT hearing Consumer Affairs lawyer Kathryn Bannon said checks from the immigration department showed Mr Abbas was still out of the country and there was no indication when he would return.

VCAT member Elisabeth Wentworth said the case would be struck out with right of reinstatement if Mr Abbas returned.

According to Ms Bannon there was no time limit for VCAT proceedings relating to the case but there was a three-year limit for criminal action.

A Consumer Affairs Victoria spokesperson said proceedings for any offence against the Estate Agents Act 1980 must be brought within three years of the alleged offence.

However, the spokesperson said proceedings could still be brought after this time with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Accordingly, Mr Abbas could still face criminal charges if he returns to Australia.

Running alongside the inquiry into Mr Abbas was the inquiry into his company Worldwide Scope Pty Ltd, of which Mr Bisset has been identified as a director.

Mr Bisset said he had been involved with Worldwide Scope Pty Ltd when his former father-in-law was a director.

Mr Bisset said he was told by his accountant in November 2009 that there had been a meeting of directors and that he had been removed as a director.

He said he had asked his accountant if there was any paperwork he needed to sign to confirm his removal from the board but was advised this was unnecessary.

Mr Bisset said he did not hear any more about the company until Consumer Affairs contacted him in October 2012.

Mr Bisset said he had never met Mr Abbas, had never stepped foot into the real estate agency and did not hold a real estate license himself.

Mr Bisset said he did not wish to challenge any of the orders Consumer Affairs wanted to impose on the company.

But VCAT member Wentworth questioned whether Mr Bisset was completely aware of what he was agreeing to and encouraged him to seek legal advice.

“These are very serious matters and potentially very serious for you and you need to seek some guidance and legal advice,” Ms Wentworth said.

“You may not care whether Worldwide Scope keeps its licence but there are implications for you.”

Mr Bisset said he could not afford to pay for legal advice and was ineligible for legal aid due to being self-employed.

If VCAT finds in favour of Consumer Affairs Mr Bisset could face a fine and will have to disclose his involvement with Worldwide Scope should he apply for any licensing or registration schemes in the future.

A date for the next VCAT hearing is yet to be determined.

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