Investors began flagging alleged Ponzi scheme runner Greg Martel to B.C. regulators in 2017

Investors began flagging alleged Ponzi scheme runner Greg Martel to B.C. regulators in 2017
File photo of Greg Martel.

Close to 1,000 investors lost hundreds of millions of dollars in what may be one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in Canada.

Some who lost their life savings investing say their attempts to blow the whistle on Greg Martel’s alleged wheeling and dealings with crown agencies fell on deaf ears.

“I did make a couple calls to the BCFSA (BC Financial Services Authority), the regulatory watchdog, and I was disappointed with their kind of lack of care. They kind of pawned me off, and they didn’t follow up with me,” said realtor Rick Horsland, who claims he sent in complaints to the BC Security Commission (BCSC).

Possibly the biggest Ponzi scheme in B.C.

Financial investigators say Martel built a business on promises he didn’t intend to keep.

“You will 100 per cent get your money back,” Martel told CHEK News in May 2023.

PricewaterhouseCoopers calls it “a massive Ponzi scheme.” Martel promised huge dividends on bridge loans, only to not invest the money but spend it. Martel took a minimum of $317 million from 930 investors.

If true, it would be the biggest Ponzi scheme in British Columbia and one of the largest in Canada.

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In 2017, two Alberta men were found guilty of fraud and theft after bilking investors out of a combined total of between $100 million and $400 million. At the time, the RCMP characterized the crime as the largest Ponzi scheme in Canadian history. 

Financial crime expert Christian Leuprecht says it’s time for a solution at a national level.

“All this adds up that the mechanisms, the frameworks, the capacities we have to ensure a properly run financial system in this country are wholly inadequate and just simply too vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors that are not running all that elaborate schemes,” said Christian Leuprecht, a financial crime expert and professor of both Queen’s University and Royal Military College.

Leuprecht says the institutions we do have in place have repeatedly shown themselves to be weak and fragmented.

“We have securities commissions that span each of the provinces rather than having a single national regulator,” said Leuprecht.

Complaints didn’t fit regulators scope

CHEK News has spoken with a total of three investors, who say their complaints to the BCSC and BCFSA were not followed up with or taken seriously.

As reported by Postmedia, freedom of information requests revealed public complaints about Martel’s investment schemes were made to both crown oversight agencies, the BCFSA and BCSC, as early as 2017.

The BCSC did not answer CHEK News’ questions on how many complaints they received or if they forwarded their complaints to other relevant agencies.

The BCFSA told CHEK News they found no wrongdoing under the laws for which they are responsible, referring the complaints not to law enforcement but to the BCSC.

The province’s finance critic says that’s not good enough

“It seems it just fell on deaf ears and was ignored,” said Peter Milobar, BC United’s shadow minister for finance.

“There needs to be better safeguards in place where if the person doesn’t go to the exact right financial agency responsible, that agency is still well connected in behind the scenes with the appropriate agency to make sure these types of allegations are properly investigated in a timely fashion,” he said, adding this will “protect future victims from falling pretty and having their life savings wiped out simply because of a bureaucracy saying it’s not my problem, talk to somebody else.”

B.C.’s premier says the province will wait for the police and BCSC investigations to wrap up before examining its financial crime reporting systems.

“Once the dust settles and we have the results of those investigations, we will look at this to determine whether there are changes that need to be made to make sure every British Columbian can invest with confidence,” said David Eby during an unrelated press conference in Oliver, B.C.

The BCSC has previously told CHEK News that their investigations typically take years. RCMP were unable to give an update on the status of the criminal investigation.

Last September, Martel was found guilty of contempt of court, and warrants for his arrest have been issued in Canada and the U.S.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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