Former Blue Chip boss Bryers seeks bankruptcy discharge

The Official Assignee has dropped its stance that Bryers may have breached the Insolvency Act.

Former Blue Chip boss Mark Bryers is seeking a discharge from his five-and-a-half year bankruptcy in the High Court at Auckland today while the Official Assignee is asking for conditions to be attached to that.

The Official Assignee has dropped its stance that Bryers may have breached the Insolvency Act by his involvement in an Australian business while a bankrupt but is seeking, as one of the conditions attached to his bankruptcy, to have him prevented from owning and operatin g a business in New Zealand in future.

Among several Australian witnesses for the public examination of Bryers was Talos general manager Robert Hughes, who was a former employer of Bryers in another company. He gave evidence that the lease for the Sydney office space for Talos, the company Bryers is now said to be involved with in Australia, was signed by director Stephen Lacy.

Lacy is a Sydney businessman, who is listed as the sole director and shareholder of the businesses in the Talos group. Complainants have claimed to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission that Bryers is the beneficial owner of a 51% stake in the Talos Accounting group.

Mr Hughes said he had known Bryers only since 2012 but the prosecution presented a statement Bryers made in 2009 at the time of his bankruptcy that a company, Balboa, of which Hughes was the sole director, would put up $1.2 million for him. Hughes said he didn't recall making that statement or knowing Bryers for that long.

Bryers was declared bankrupt in October 2009, owing creditors – by his own estimate – $173 million.

He lost a bid last November to avoid appearing in person at a High Court hearing to discharge his bankruptcy after five years, with a judge turning down his request to be examined via a video-link from Australia, where he now lives.

Bryers had said he was concerned about the negative publicity that would accompany his return to New Zealand and that the hearing could potentially turn into a media spectacle. The normally clean-shaven Bryers was sporting a goatee beard at today's hearing.


Public examination needed
The Official Assignee opposed the video-link after receiving information concerning Bryers' alleged conduct while a bankrupt that meant a public examination of his affairs was needed.

Under reciprocal legislation, Bryers is banned from being a director or manager of a company in Australia while bankrupt.

The Blue Chip group of companies failed in 2008 owing $84 million to more than 2000 investors and its liquidator dropped civil proceedings against the firm's former director and auditor after it was unable to raise enough funds for a legal battle. Bryers was sentenced to 75 hours' community work and received a $37,000 fine for breaches of the Companies Act and Financial Reporting Act.

The Financial Markets Authority dropped an investigation into the group after Blue Chip-funded developers reached a settlement with investors and the Serious Fraud Office also decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution.

The hearing is continuing.