26 Feb 2018

Disgraced, unlicenced agent aids in flip of million-dollar property

From Checkpoint, 5:18 pm on 26 February 2018

A disgraced, unlicensed real estate agent helped sell an Auckland property to his aunt for less than half its market value, with it selling again the same day for a $525,000 profit.

Nosh reborn as Grocer's Market, but under the same premise

Aaron Drever Photo: RNZ / YouTube

In November 2016, the Real Estate Authority cancelled Aaron Drever's real estate licence saying he was "unable or unwilling" to change and "the public needs to [be] protected from him".

It was Mr Drever's ninth finding of misconduct and unsatisfactory conduct.

Five weeks later, he helped the Avondale Bowling Club - where he is a member and friend of president Arthur 'Pat' Bell - sell one of its bowling greens at 1797 Great North Road in Avondale Auckland.

At 1101 square metres and just a 10 minute drive into the CBD, the bowling green is worth around $1 million today.

But Mr Bell said on recommendation from Mr Drever, the Avondale Bowling Club sold it in December 2016 for just $300,000.

It was bought by a company named Avondale Bowling Club Limited, which was wholly owned by Mr Drever's aunt, Beverley Spain.

Avondale Bowling Club Limited then on-sold it, the same day it was acquired, to mortgage broker Jonathan Michell for $825,000.

Mr Drever invoiced the Avondale Bowling Club $20,400 for his "professional advice" relating to the sale of the green and another property.

The club refused to pay.

Mr Michell declined to be interviewed by Checkpoint with John Campbell, but said in a statement he was approached by Mr Drever to buy the green and was interested because he "could add value by rezoning the property from recreational to housing and building housing on it".

"I thought I was paying the bowling club $825,000 for the property. I did not know that there was a sale to [Avondale Bowling Club Limited] for a lower price when I signed the agreement.

"I would not have purchased or settled had I known the full situation," Mr Michell's statement said.

Mr Bell said he knew at the time Mr Drever should not have been involved in the sale, but the club was in financial trouble because of liquor license issues and needed the money.

"We had problems, and [Mr Drever] offered his services," Mr Bell told Auckland Council's District Licensing Committee in August last year.

Mr Bell has since changed his story, telling Checkpoint last week that the Avondale Bowling Club board approached Mr Drever.

Asked about Mr Drever's level of involvement in the sale, Mr Bell said: "He arranged the contract, he passed the contract to me and the secretary and the treasurer, we signed it, and he went away."

The secretary at the time was Mr Drever's ex-girlfriend and former business partner Rachel Benge, who was disciplined by the Real Estate Authority alongside Mr Drever in 2014.

Ms Benge declined to comment.

Mr Bell said he put the $300,000 from the sale of the green into his solicitor's bank account, and told Auckland Council's District Licensing Committee in August last year he did so because he was going overseas, and the club's committee was happy for him to.

At the licensing committee, chairperson Katia Fraser questioned why.

"It's very very unusual, unless the money is required for something else," she said.

Mr Bell assured Ms Fraser the money would be spent on club maintenance.  

At a meeting at the club on Monday 19 February, Checkpoint understands Gerald Holst, a representative of Auckland Bowls, which has taken over the club, told attendees the club was $40,000 in debt.

"[Gerald] said he had no interest in going back and investigating those issues and there was no indication of where that money was spent," said Paul Davies, a former Avondale Bowling Club member who was at the meeting.

"Nobody has any idea where that money has gone," Mr Davies said.

Mr Bell declined to comment about the $300,000 the club received from the sale.

Avondale Bowling Club Limited was deregistered last week, after Checkpoint began investigating the sale of the green, and after the meeting at the club about the sale.

Checkpoint was unable to reach Ms Spain - Mr Drever's aunt and the company's sole shareholder and director - for comment.

Ms Spain does not live at the address listed with the Companies Office and the lawyer who helped her incorporate Avondale Bowling Club Limited, Bruce Johnson of Central Park Legal, declined to comment.

Mr Johnson is also Aaron Drever's lawyer, according to Companies Office documents.

Providing false or misleading information to the Companies Registrar carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine or two years in prison.

The Real Estate Authority declined to comment but confirmed it is aware of the matter and Mr Drever's alleged involvement.

Mr Drever has not responded to repeated calls, texts, and emails from Checkpoint.

His latest venture, The Grocer's Market, is in receivership owing suppliers and staff hundreds of thousands of dollars.