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A collapsed property investment scheme which cost elderly Australians their homes and life savings has been referred for possible criminal charges. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has handed information about Sterling Income Trust to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to weigh up criminal charges. Former ASIC investigator Niall Coburn told a Senate inquiry on Tuesday it was “incredible” the corporate cop took so long to start investigating and the delay allowed the scheme to “spread its tentacles”. The scheme lured West Australian investors into signing long-term tenancy agreements, with returns from a lump-sum investment used to pay rent. Senators are scrutinising ASIC’s oversight and looking at what is needed to prevent it from happening again as well as broader laws for financial misconduct victims. Cath Dall’s mother, a disability pensioner, was among those stung by Sterling’s collapse in 2019 after investing more than $165,000. Ms Dall told senators the fact the directors were able to start Sterling was a failure on ASIC’s behalf. Then-Sterling directors Raymond Jones and Simon Bell had between them previously been directors, alternate directors or secretaries of a combined 211 companies. Ms Dall said Mr Jones had resigned from seven different companies each before they collapsed. “It shows a pattern of behaviour where he is resigning his role of responsibility so he can potentially … not be held accountable for the…

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