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bill shorten & great southern plantations

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    Canada's Vic farmland grab
    Weekly times

    EXCLUSIVE: THE mastermind of a foreign raid on 252,000 hectares of Australian farmland is at the centre of a Government inquiry.

    Canadian Leo de Bever was chief investment officer at the Victorian Funds Management Corporation when it lost billions in taxpayer money on an investment called Life Settlements Wholesale Fund.

    A leaked Victorian Government report, seen by The Weekly Times, claimed Mr de Bever ignored process and made the investments without the approval of then treasurer John Lenders.

    Mr de Bever returned to Canada where he became chief executive of investment fund Alberta, which made the controversial purchase of 252,000ha of land formerly owned by fallen managed investment scheme giant Great Southern Plantations.

    The VFMC and the circumstances around Mr de Bever's Life Settlements investment is the subject of a second government investigation being carried out by auditor KPMG.

    A report ordered by the previous Labor Government and performed by law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques said: "It appears that the investment was made prior to obtaining the formal approval of the treasurer on the basis that a 'valuation gain' could be obtained if the investment was made by a particular deadline."

    Federal Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten, who had the power to block the GSP sale, is understood to have been on the board of the VFMC when Mr de Bever was hired.

    The GSP sale was signed off by Treasurer Wayne Swan because Mr Shorten was on holidays.

    A spokesman for Mr Shorten did not comment when contacted.

    GSP investor Phil Capicchiano has argued selling the land in small lots would have increased the sale price and returned more money to investors.

    Mr de Bever admitted in Canada's National Post newspaper that "a lot of other people wanted to buy pieces of the estate".

    The Weekly Times understands a Senate inquiry will grill receiver McGrathNicol over the GSP sale.

    Victorian Treasurer Kim Wells has ordered "a comprehensive review" of the VFMC.

    Mr de Bever could not be contacted by The Weekly Times
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