Melbourne lawyer pleads guilty to $4.8 million fraud after “Monty Python-esque” investigation

Melbourne lawyer pleads guilty to $4.8 million fraud after “Monty Python-esque” investigation

A former Melbourne lawyer has pleaded guilty to a multi-million dollar fraud to prop up two of his businesses, following a five-year investigation that has been likened to a Monty Python sketch.

Alan Munt was charged with 26 offences relating to fraud between 1998 and 2009 last year, but in a hearing in the Supreme Court of Victoria yesterday, Justice Betty King said the way the investigation into the alleged fraudulent activity had been handballed between the Law Institute of Victoria, the Legal Services Board and Victoria Police was shameful.

“Are you sure this isn’t Monty Python,” King said, according to Nine News.

“It’s an absolute indictment on all of the organisations involved that this is just shunted around like a football. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.”

Munt pleaded guilty to the charges, which included theft and obtaining property by deception.

According to Nine News, Munt is accused of taking funds from clients under the pretence of a legitimate investment scheme but operated a Ponzi scheme by funnelling the money into Geelong-based soft drink company Noddy’s Soft Drinks and his legal practice.

Munt is accused of pouring $1.65 million into Noddy’s Soft Drinks, which collapsed in 2009. He is accused of spending another $1.1 million to maintain the scheme, but the rest of the money is reportedly unaccounted for.

He is also accused of diverting inheritance money pledged to charities to bank accounts in his name.

The court heard Munt reported himself to the Law Institute of Victoria in September 2009, which then passed on the evidence of the scheme to policy in December 2009. The investigation was then reportedly delegated to the Legal Services Board, which hired a contractor to carry out the investigation, and reported back to the police in 2012. Charges were laid after another 15 months.

“This is really Python-esque in its nature,” King said.

“This seems to me an incredibly long (investigation) on someone who has provided all these documents”.

Alan Munt’s layer, Greg Lyon QC, was not able to comment on the case when contacted by SmartCompany.

However, according to Nine News, Lyon told the court Munt’s confession and co-operation with the investigation is evidence of his remorse.

Lyon reportedly told the court Munt was motivated by greed and maintaining an outward appearance of success.

A spokesperson for the Law Institute of Victoria told SmartCompany the institute is unable to comment on the case as it is still before the courts but said it will be filing further submissions to the court on February 13.

Brett Warfield, forensic accounting specialist and chief executive of Warfield & Associates, told SmartCompany a Ponzi scheme, especially one that has been operating for more than seven years, can be difficult to unwind.

“It depends how far back the evidence goes,” Warfield says.

“It can certainly take a while to unwind as there are usually a lot of transfers and transactions and it can be difficult to trace what each transaction was for.

While Warfield says a confession and co-operation from the individual accused of fraud can greatly assist an investigation, over time a person’s memory can also diminish and they won’t necessarily recall what each transaction was for.

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