Posted on: August 22, 2023, 10:25h.
Last updated on: August 22, 2023, 12:19h.
A financial adviser and comedian in Australia is facing serious problems with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The financial watchdog has seized David Valvo's bank accounts and taken away his passport. That's as it investigates whether he incorrectly charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, possibly to fuel his gambling activity.
An Australian Federal Court approved the moves amid an ASIC investigation exploring how Valvo billed some of his high-end clients. Valvo, who operated the financial consultancy Your Financial Freedom when not giving impressions of Donald Trump or Russell Crowe, may have conducted creative accounting to squeeze more money out of his superannuation clients.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Jessica Seymour, an investigator from ASIC, recently lodged a complaint with the Federal Court about the ongoing investigation. In her complaint, she explained that the watchdog is contemplating notifying federal prosecutors of Valvo's potential involvement in fraudulent activities and negligence.
Alleged Penchant for Betting
ASIC seems to have plenty of concerns about the way Valvo has worked as a financial adviser in and around Sydney. The watchdog said in a press release on Tuesday that it's investigating the financial services provided by Valvo and his company between January 2015 and September 2021.
In her statement before the Federal Court, Seymour revealed that Valvo had an extensive background in gambling. He allegedly deposited at least AU$400,000 (US$257,080) with sports betting operator Sportsbet since February 2021.
Furthermore, there were alleged enormous financial transfers made by Valvo to an unidentified individual in Malta. He may have allegedly been planning to relocate to Malta later this year.
Valvo will have to keep AU$1 million (US$642,700) within Australia, whether under his personal identity or in an account associated with the defunct consultancy business. This serves as a type of guarantee to try to entice him not to leave the country.
ASIC's investigation is continuing and the watchdog didn't specify if it had determined how much Valvo may have overcharged his clients, or if he used the money specifically for gambling. Another court appearance is on the schedule for September 29.
ASIC Staying Busy in 2023
ASIC's enforcement and monitoring endeavors are vividly showcased in its quarterly report for the period of April to June 2023. This comprehensive account shows that Australia is dealing with an increase in various financial crimes.
The watchdog's enforcement endeavors during the first six months of the year, according to ASIC data, have yielded AU$109.1 million (US$70.14 million) in civil penalties, significantly surpassing the AU$76 million (US$48.86 million) during the last six months of 2022.
Because of ASIC's oversight, the Federal Court recently smacked Insurance Australia Limited, one of the leading general insurance companies in Australia, with an unprecedented fine of AU$40 million (US$25.71 million.
In another recent ruling by a Federal Court, two AMP Group entities will pay AU$24 million (US$15.43 million) to settle similar cases. The banking and financial investment companies reportedly charged life insurance and advisory fees to the superannuation accounts of 2,000 dead clients.
Adding to the work ASIC had to do in the latter half of 2022 was the fallout from Star Entertainment's failure to abide by anti-money laundering rules. The watchdog charged 11 people connected to the casino operator, including former chairman John O'Neill and former CO Matt Bekier, with violating Australia's Corporations Act.
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