Conned Coast cane farmer wins $6.6M lawsuit
A VETERAN cane farmer, conned into investing millions into a failed tech start-up company, has successfully sued for damages.
Keith Messer was rapidly declining into dementia-driven memory loss and confusion when he was lured into buying shares into the now collapsed music-streaming service Guvera.
His daughter, who cares for the ailing 81-year-old and his affairs, took financial services firm AMMA Private Equity to the Federal Court on her father's behalf claiming his incapacity would have been "apparent".
The court heard Mr Messer was only in the early stages of the disease when his accountant Vince Cook introduced him to representatives of AMMA in 2012 at a time when it was raising capital for Guvera.
His original investments of $1.5million were not pursued in the damages claim.
When his daughter became aware her father had been pouring money into the firm however, she told AMMA representative, James Forrestel, there would be no further investments.
Concerned about what had transpired, she signed an authority with Mr Cook so she would be kept informed on her her father's financial affairs.
Despite this, Mr Forrestel went with Mr Messer to a local bank branch twice, helping him break term deposits - transferring $2.5million and $3million respectively into Guvera accounts.
A bank teller was so concerned she contacted head office and asked if she should call the police but was told that without evidence of Mr Messer's incapacity the bank had "no right to intervene".
She said during a meeting in 2014 Mr Messer "hardly answered any of the questions" she posed and was instead prompted and guided by the man she only knew as being "from Guvera".
By 2014, Mr Messer's daughter was appointed her father's sole power of attorney.
The court heard on a family holiday to Hamilton Island, his family realised he had deteriorated significantly and could not remember the name of his ex-wife and mother of his children.
Back in Hervey Bay, Mr Messer's daughter became aware her father's investments had reached $8million.
When she raised her concerns with an AMMA representative he offered her "a laptop and Rolling Stones tickets".
She then met with Mr Forrestell who told her Guvera was "going really well" and Mr Messer would make in excess of $40million.
Guvera folded last year following a failed attempt at a billion-dollar ASX listing.
More than 3000 investors had poured $185 million into the company which still owes creditors around $15million.
Justice Jennifer Davies said she was satisfied, based on medical evidence before the court, that Mr Messer's advanced dementia and mental incapacities would have been apparent to anyone who met him in 2014.
She said the inference could also be drawn Mr Messer was convinced to invest further in Guvera when AMMA knew the company was in fact in a poor position.
Mr Messer was awarded $6.6million in damages.