A former partner in a Melbourne law firm has pleaded not guilty to charges over an alleged fraud that cost investors more than $6 million.
Phillip Gregory Spark will stand trial in Victoria's County Court on 170 charges including obtaining financial advantage and property by deception over alleged conduct between 2002 and 2011.
Court documents allege Spark met the director of a property development company in the late 1990s when he was a partner in a suburban law firm in Melbourne's northeast.
Spark is accused of befriending the man and later convincing him to work together on projects, with him becoming a director, lawyer and project manager in a new joint company.
Three investment management companies were also created, with Spark appointed as project manager for those too.
Projects included a 72-unit student accommodation facility and residential apartments.
Spark, now 70, has lived in Queensland since 2011 and remains there on bail.
He had been due to face a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court this week, but elected to go straight to trial.
It's alleged he used his professional training as a solicitor to gain the trust of the complainant, allowing him to gain financial advantage for himself by attending settlements on behalf of sellers and depositing settlement cheques into his own accounts for personal use.
Police also argue Spark carefully chose victims who he had represented as their solicitor in previous settlements or while handling deceased estates.
"The accused requested loans from his victims with the promise of a high interest return and only a short waiting period to be repaid the capital invested or loaned," according to court documents.
"When it came time for the accused to repay the capital he attempted to convince the victims to reinvest with him - this was a delay tactic as he was unable to repay the capital."
Spark is also accused of providing clients with pre-dated cheques while knowing they would be dishonoured by banks when there was an attempt to deposit them.
The investors lost more than $6.7 million, while Spark is accused of making a personal gain of $6.6 million.
The complainant - Spark's partner in the business - went off work for 18 months in 2010 while receiving treatment for leukaemia.
Spark allegedly told clients that the man was "was dying of cancer and he wanted to be left alone".
When the man returned to the business he found out it had been banned from operating and had its licence cancelled by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.