Store owner loses indigenous trade licence


A store owner on South Australia's Aboriginal lands has had his state government licence to trade cancelled after he was fined more than $160,000 over a dodgy credit scheme.

Over a two-year period between 2010 and 2012, the Federal Court found that Lindsay Kobelt, the owner of a general store at Mintabie, had used a "book-up" system to withdraw almost $1 million from the accounts of 85 customers who had been offered loans to buy second-hand cars.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher says the government is also reviewing Kobelt's residential licence which allows him to live on the state's Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.

"The Federal Court's findings against Mr Kobelt send a very clear message to any operators who are engaging in unethical and predatory book-up practices that they may be penalised," Mr Maher said on Thursday.

"The practices outlined in the Federal Court decision are disgraceful and cannot be tolerated."

The court found Kobelt's conduct to be unconscionable with Judge Richard White last month imposing fines totalling $167,500 that have been stayed, pending an appeal.

Under his scheme, Kobelt provided loans to customers but in return they were required to provide him with a debit card linked to the bank account their wages or Centrelink payments were paid into.

He then used the cards to withdraw all, or nearly all, the available funds before allowing the card owners to have some money back to buy food and other necessities.

The action against the storekeeper was brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, with deputy chairman Peter Kell saying the case should serve as a warning to all those in the credit industry.

"This kind of exploitation of financially vulnerable consumers has serious consequences," Mr Kell said.

Mr Maher said in light of the court's findings, the government would consider returning ownership and management of the Mintabie township to the traditional owners.

He said accredited loan provider MoneyMob Talkabout had also been given a $300,000 grant to help deliver more extensive financial education to local Aboriginal people and to increase the number of no-interest loans available on the APY lands.