Liquidator finds the directors withdrew large sums of money days before calling in the receivers.

Days before placing the company in receivership, the directors of the troubled Brisbane Baroque Festival paid $64,000 into two of their other companies according to the official Liquidator. The information emerged at the creditor’s meeting held last week on February 2.

The Melbourne meeting was attended by, among others, conductor and harpsichordist Erin Helyard, Alison Johnston of Orchestra of the Antipodes, harpsichord maker Carey Beebe, Michael Stout, Associate Director of Finance and Business at QPAC and Eddie Muscat from the Liquidator, Mayfields Business Advisors. Brisbane Baroque director Shannon Pigram was also present.

The Liquidators drew the meeting’s attention to a bank statement for the Festival account revealing that a payment of around $64,000 had been made to Brisbane Baroque from the Australian Taxation Office in mid-November, and that $64,000 had subsequently been withdrawn from the account on January 6 this year, just a few days before the liquidator was appointed. The money was taken out in two payments, the first of $25,000 to Studio Jack (the design company owned by Pigram and his partner Jarrod Carland) and the second of $39,000 to Jarrod Carland Enterprises.

In a personal statement issued in mid-January, Carland wrote that the Festival had left him “in considerable debt” and that “any suggestion that my partner and I have been using funds from the festival for our own personal use is outrageous and untrue.” Pigram declined to comment on the Liquidator’s findings, remaining silent throughout the entire meeting, however Mayfields noted that that these withdrawals raised a number of red flags and will warrant further investigation. It may be, that as a “Voidable Transaction”, the Liquidator can ask for the money to be repaid, although if the money is no longer there the request might not succeed. 

Other issues discussed included the issue of whether, considering the Festival owed over $400,000 from 2015 before committing to go ahead with the 2016 event, the directors had traded while insolvent – a criminal act under Australian law – and the unverified “rumour” that Carland and Pigram had bought an apartment at the same time as payments for the Festival were coming in. Investigations into both matters would probably be “expensive, difficult to prove and unlikely to succeed,” the Liquidator warned.

With the Liquidator’s fee capped at $35,000 and only $5,800 in the Festival bank account, the creditors have been left hoping that the remaining Tourism Events Queensland (TEQ) monies will enable them to move forward. TEQ, who refused to pay their final instalment to Brisbane Baroque when they suspected it was in debt, has offered to make an ex gratia payment of $30,000. However, with the total debt now around $1.1 million the return would be less than 3 cents in the dollar for the more than 50 artists, ensembles and industry professionals still out of pocket.

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