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Hofman’s repossessed antiques sold at an Australian auction
Fugitive from Canadian justice to face judge ‘down under’
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
LAUNCESTON, Tasmania – The private antiques collection, owned by fugitive Fred S. Hofman – in Australia he is known as Piet Cornelus Walters – was auctioned in Launceston recently. The elaborate collection had lavishly decorated Hofman’s Georgian mansion until it was repossessed.
Hofman’s court date in Cairns, Queensland has been postponed several times now but he is expected to be tried soon for operating an alleged illegal scheme that owes millions to Australian investors. Similar charges are outstanding in Canada against the former Vancouver, B.C. accountant who disappeared from sight in 1991, leaving dozens of mostly older people destitute.
The collection of repossessed antiques included 19th century European furniture, valuable china and other artwork. It is alleged that Hofman’s wife, Virginia Ransom-Walters, was linked to his investment scheme. According to Australian sources, she collected some of the antiques on overseas spending sprees, as part of the couple’s luxurious lifestyle that allegedly included paying for more than 40 friends to attend their three-day wedding at an island off the Eastern Australian coast. It was at that event that many of their friends (and ‘investors’) learned that Hofman was related to Dutch royalty. Friends, of whom some are now want their money returned from the investment scheme, say Hofman wore a sash to signify ‘his noble heritage.’
Between 1999 and 2002, Hofman and his Australian wife racked up $621,000 on credit cards, with large repayments coming from Drury Management Pty Ltd., Hofman’s three-branches accounting and financial services business. More than 230 investors were believed to have been in Drury Management's investment scheme and about $15 million is still missing.
The couple bought the Longford mansion for more than $730,000 in 2000, reportedly planning to use it as a venue to host weddings. Hofman told a Cairns judge an $8,000 cruise on the Queen Elizabeth II was work-related because his wife, who already owned an art gallery when she met ‘Walters,’ was buying art. Hofman who admitted in court he came to Australia under his own name, never applied for an immigration permit.
The trail of the former Vancouver accountant had been dead since April 1991 when he was last seen by acquaintances who also traveled on a Seattle-Amsterdam Martinair flight.
Hofman’s cover was exposed in 2002, during an Australian investigation into an unregistered investment scheme. A Vancouver forensic accountant who traced a Australian money transfer to a Vancouver stock brokerage house where one of Hofman’s sons was employed, realized that Australia’s Piet C. Walters in effect was Canada’s missing Fred S. Hofman.
The suspicion of Hofman’s former friends in the Vancouver area that he kept in contact with some members of his abandoned family definitely was given more grounds by the widely publicized news of the money transfer. At the time of his disappearance in 1991, Hofman already had a married daughter in Australia.
Hofman has been placed under house arrest, pending his trial. Meanwhile, a court-appointed liquidator has been winding up the affairs of Drury Management.
Australian authorities also are winding up the operation of a similar Cairns-based illegal scheme. The Parry & More Accountants case concerns about $6 million of missing investors’ money. The illegal schemes have exposed weaknesses in the Australian regulatory system for retirement funds, which authorities currently are reviewing. Accountant Elizabeth Heather Parry was sentenced to a 10-year jail term.