22-178MR Banned individual Nizi Bhandari charged with unlicensed advice and dishonesty offences

Nizi Bhandari, of Bundoora, Victoria, has been charged with engaging in dishonest conduct in the course of carrying on a financial services business and providing unlicensed personal financial product advice.

Between November 2017 and December 2020, Mr Bhandari was an authorised representative of The Australian Dealer Group Pty Ltd, an Australian financial services (AFS) licensee that helped consumers to find lost superannuation and consolidate their superannuation accounts. For the same period, he was also the sole director, responsible manager and key person under The Australian Dealer Group’s AFS licence.

It is alleged that between January 2019 and March 2020, Mr Bhandari:

provided seven consumers with personal financial product advice that neither he nor The Australian Dealer Group was authorised to provide,
encouraged 15 consumers to tell their superannuation funds that they were not working, had permanently retired, or were working less than 10 hours per week to enable them to access their superannuation when they were not entitled to,
told 15 consumers that they could access their superannuation based upon having reached preservation age when he knew that those consumers also had to be retired or working less than 10 hours per week in order to have such access,
told three consumers to ask their employer to pay their employer superannuation contributions into a superannuation account other than the consumer’s super account to prevent the administrator of that super fund from becoming aware that the consumer had made a false statement about their work status,
told one consumer that he would describe the consumer as retired to the superannuation fund to enable the consumer to withdraw his superannuation, when he knew the consumer was still working; and
told one consumer that the consumer was ‘technically’ retired when he knew that the consumer had not retired.
On the occasions where consumers allegedly followed Mr Bhandari’s advice, his business received fees.

The matter is next listed for mention on 4 October 2022 in the Magistrate’s Court of Victoria.

This matter is being prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions after an investigation and referral by ASIC.

Background
In March 2021, ASIC permanently banned Mr Bhandari from providing financial services and engaging in credit activities, controlling a financial services or credit business, or performing any function in relation to carrying on a financial services or credit business (21-046MR).

The maximum penalty for an individual person found guilty of engaging in dishonest conduct in the course of carrying on a financial services business is between 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $945,000, or both.

The maximum penalty for an individual person found guilty of providing unlicensed personal financial product advice while providing financial services on behalf of a person who carries on a financial services business is five years’ imprisonment, a fine of $126,000, or both.

Moneysmart.gov.au has useful information for consumers about choosing a financial adviser, including how to complain about a financial adviser and what to do if an adviser is banned. Moneysmart.gov.au also has information about finding lost super, which includes guidance for consumers about how to consolidate your super funds.

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