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Hofman unexpectedly abandons his appeal by pleading guilty to fraud
Dutch Canadian to be resentenced in Australia
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
CAIRNS, Queensland, Australia - Piet Cornelius Walters, in North America known as Fred Sybold Hofman, the Canadian accountant and ‘financial advisor’ who disappeared in 1991, has pleaded guilty to defrauding Cairns region investors of nearly $1 million in a bogus investment scheme. Appearing before the Cairns District Court, Walters unexpectedly pleaded guilty to the 14 charges on which he had previously been convicted and successfully appealed.
The 72-year-old Dutch citizen was to face a retrial on 13 charges of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage and one count of causing a financial detriment while he was a director of Drury Management in Malanda. But just one day after a jury was selected and before any evidence was heard, the 14 jurors were discharged. A frail and shaky Walters stood in the dock while the first charges were read out. Judge Sarah Bradley allowed him to sit for the remaining charges as he appeared struggling to stand.
From September 1999 to August 2002, Walters stole amounts ranging from $10,000 to $330,000 from small unsophisticated investors and retirees in an area locally known as the Tableland. The total amount of the fraud was $969,258.48, according to Australian authorities, but his victims claim that the losses amount to more than 10 million Australian dollars.
At the time, Walters (Hofman) was shut down by the regulators, he was operating out of the Malanda office of accounting firm Drury and Associates.
Investigators initially traced Walters to Tasmania where his wife had purchased a luxury mansion for $730,000 in 2000. The same mansion was sold for more than $1 million earlier this year. Hofman (Walters) is also wanted in Canada for a similar investment scam, which allegedly netted him $20 million.
Walters was extradited to Cairns and in September 2006 a District Court jury convicted him on the 14 counts. The conviction and eight-year jail sentence was quashed by the Court of Appeal in April this year because a sick juror was absent for an hour during deliberations.
According to a statement released by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), Walters obtained loans from 118 Far North investors. They gave out the loans for promissory notes or deeds and were guaranteed annual returns of eight to 15 per cent. The investment scheme went into liquidation in October 2004 with losses estimated at $15 million.
ASIC has imposed a lifetime ban on Walters providing financial services. Walters was remanded in custody and will be resentenced early in November.