The owners of West Cape Howe winery have swooped on the remaining vineyard assets of Great Southern's failed wine grape projects, after its three viticultural schemes were finally wound up yesterday.
Proving the adage that to make a small fortune from a vineyard you need to start with a big one, investors who ploughed about $48.5 million into the three tax schemes will receive about $1.5 million after accounting for the costs of winding up the troubled managed investment scheme (MIS).
In return, the investors will remove caveats and terminate their leases over the grapes and vines.
This will allow companies associated with directors of West Cape Howe, which already own the land on which the vines are planted (having bought it from Great Southern's liquidators) to be able to harvest and use the grapes.
The failed wine grape project was one of a number of such MIS plans under the broader umbrella of the Great Southern financial disaster.
It expanded its MIS business rapidly last decade, along with other groups such as Timbercorp, supported by a favourable tax regime for the sector.
But mismanagement, the global financial crisis, a wine glut and changes to federal regulations conspired to torpedo the schemes. Disgruntled investor Allan Thorburn, who tipped $45,000 into the venture, was at the wind-up vote yesterday in Fremantle.
Despite the collapse already spurring two federal parliamentary inquiries and separate court cases, Mr Thorburn said a more forensic investigation into the bungled scheme was needed to prevent a repeat, and rounded on the corporate regulator for its lack of action.
"The whole thing has been a fiasco," he said. "This is another example of Australian investors getting ripped off, and ASIC has done nothing - they are absolutely useless."
Mr Thorburn said there had been a "missed opportunity" to sell the wine assets to Chinese investors.
Primary Securities was called in to rescue the wine schemes from receivers in February 2010.
Managing director Rob Garton Smith said the return to investors, while small, was better than the complete loss they were facing.
He said criticism by investors of companies such as Trentvale and Quenby Viticultural Services, which are linked to the purchase of the Great Southern assets, and allied to West Cape Howe directors including Rob Quenby, was misplaced.
"Quenby (Viticultural Services) has been the main risk taker and run the vineyards at a loss on behalf of the growers for the past two years," Mr Garton Smith said. "Growers haven't been asked to cover the costs of running the vineyard like spraying and pruning."Mr Quenby did not return calls yesterday.
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