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ASIC disqualifies SMSF auditor

The corporate watchdog has disqualified Manoj Abichandani of New South Wales from being an approved SMSF auditor, after it was determined he provided untruthful statements that were deliberately misleading and he was not a fit or proper person to be an SMSF auditor.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) imposed additional conditions on Abichandani’s registration for him to undertake further professional development and submit three of his subsequent audits for an independent review, with the expectation that by meeting those conditions he might address the concerns.

Abichandani requested a review of the conditions and as part of that process made statements to ASIC that were found to be untruthful and deliberately misleading.

The decision to disqualify him was also subject to further review, which found among other things that his statements were made for the purpose of causing ASIC to erroneously accept he had no understanding of the audit work that had been undertaken and the findings made as a result of that audit work.

Abichandani has lodged an application with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC’s disqualification decision.

“As the SMSF sector continues to grow in popularity with Australian investors, it is critical that approved SMSF auditors perform their role adequately and meet professional standards,” ASIC commissioner John Price said.

“ASIC will continue to follow up matters referred by the ATO concerning the quality of SMSF auditors.”
Concerns about the quality of Abichandani’s audit work were referred to ASIC by the ATO under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) (SIS) Act.

From 1 July 2013, the SIS Act required all auditors of SMSFs to be registered with ASIC.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of NSW today handed down final orders further to the judgment delivered against Park Trent Properties Group on 15 October.

The court made orders against Park Trent, including declarations that it had unlawfully carried on an unlicensed financial services business for over five years by providing advice to clients to purchase investment properties through an SMSF, as well as a permanent injunction on the company restraining it from providing unlicensed financial product advice to clients regarding SMSFs.

The orders also required the group to post a notice on its website outlining the orders made against it.

In his judgment, acting Justice Ronald Sackville said: “The publication of a notice on its website appropriately recognises the seriousness of Park Trent’s contravention and the public interest in bringing Park Trent’s conduct to the attention of the community.”

ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said the outcome sent a strong message that there were serious consequences for property spruikers who broke the law by providing unlicensed financial advice.

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