Failed builder directors could face criminal charges
HOUSING and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni says a public examination into the collapse of two major Queensland construction companies could assist police in bringing criminal charges against individual directors.
Mr De Brenni today welcomed the decision by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to contribute $300,000 for separate public examinations into the collapse of both Cullen Group Australia and Queensland One Homes.
The funds will allow the liquidators of the companies to force directors to appear in the Federal Court to answer questions about the collapses.
Cullen Group collapsed in December 2016, leaving 500 creditors owed more than $18 million.
The first cracks leading to the collapse of Wayne Cullen's building company, which threatened to wipe out some Gold Coast subbies, began appearing on Brisbane sites in early 2016.
Liquidators were then called in midway through construction of the $100 million Boheme development at Robina.
Queensland One Homes went under in July 2017 with more than $5.9 million estimated to be owed to small business owners, financiers and the Australian Taxation Office.
A Supreme Court judge froze $7.1 million of assets of Queensland One Homes director Paul Callender in November 2017 along with the assets of his wife Amber who operates related firm Empire Constructions Pty Ltd.
Empire Constructions was a company which a liquidator claimed may have engaged in illegal phoenix activity.
Liquidator Michael Caspaney told the court in an affidavit he believed Queensland One Homes had been operating insolvent as early as March 31, 2016 - 16 months before it collapsed.
QBCC records show Gold Coast-based Queensland One Homes was contracted in 2016-17 to build 25 homes worth $5.7 million and 160 homes worth $35.1 million the previous year.
"A public examination could uncover further details about how the companies operated and examine the affairs of the key parties and decision makers," Mr de Brenni said.
"Information discovered via a public examination could assist police to bring criminal charges against individual directors."
QBCC Commissioner Brett Bassett said a public examination would further assist authorities get to the bottom of these two significant building company collapses.
The QBCC referred both cases to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for suspected illegal phoenix activity.
"These collapses have had a devastating effect on the people and communities around them, and as the regulator, we will do everything in our power to rid the industry of these unscrupulous operators," said Mr Bassett.
"The QBCC is currently investing heavily in our systems and resources so that we can potentially predict financially risky companies before they crash."
The move for a probe into the collapses comes as the boss of Queensland's largest construction company warned that more building companies are set to go broke in the state amid toughening conditions in the sector.
Hutchinson Builders managing director Greg Quinn said this week more builders were competing for a diminishing amount of work following the end of the housing boom.
"We expect to see more insolvencies occurring in the next 12 months," Mr Quinn said before speaking at the QUT Business Leaders' Forum on Tuesday.
More than 1400 companies in the state's construction sector have entered administration in the past five years, with losses totalling an estimated $390 million.