Former financial adviser Ben Jayaweera has been found guilty of six charges of dishonestly causing detriment to clients, involving approximately $5.9 million and had been sentenced to 12 years after a three-week trial.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) alleged the Mount Gravatt East, Queensland adviser induced various investors to transfer funds through his company Growth Plus Financial Group, now in liquidation.
This included funds from clients self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF), for investment into an unregistered managed investment scheme, known as the Australian Diversified Sector Income Fund (ADSIF).
ASIC also alleged Jayaweera invested some clients’ superannuation funds into ADSIF without their knowledge or permission.
Jayaweera claimed ADSIF was a diversified fund investing in cash, property, shares, aquaculture and agriculture when the only investment was a single project – an abalone farm in South Australia operated under his control.
Danielle Press, ASIC commissioner, said the majority of Jayaweera’s clients were near or at retirement age and suffered significant financial harm due to his actions.
“Financial advisors are entrusted with other people’s money. ASIC takes breaches of trust very seriously,” Press said.
The jury found Jayaweera guilty of each of the six counts of dishonestly causing a detriment to various clients who invested approximately $5.9 million, which were directed to company bank accounts to make payments to the abalone farm and other third parties.
The abalone farm had been wound up by receivers and the liquidators of Growth Plus and there would be no returns available for ADSIF investors from Growth Plus.
The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutors after referral from ASIC.