Phoenix chief faces forgery allegations

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Fairfax Media    |    28 April 2016

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Ivan Brown, who ran one of Australia’s fastest-growing vocational colleges, Phoenix Institute, is being investigated for allegedly forging documents to reap more than $100 million in taxpayer funds.

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Phoenix

Federal Police search warrants say they have “reasonable grounds for suspecting” Brown, the made false documents or caused them to be made “with the intention to influence the Commonwealth to accept on-line students as genuinely enrolled and participating in training”.

Police raided the offices of Phoenix’s parent company, Australian Careers Network, in April in search of evidence of criminal behaviour.  It seized documents relating to students.

Brown denies any wrongdoing.

They can get a search warrant for murder weapons if they like; it doesn’t mean a murder has been committed.  They can put anything they want in a search warrant, it doesn’t mean any crime has been committed. It’s not proof of anything.

The details of the warrant came in an administrator’s report from Ferrier Hodgson, which was appointed to the company in March after the Commonwealth government froze funding to ACN.

The report shows the administrators believe that the education department owes ACN $253 million for people signed up to courses of study.

But the administration is complicated by five different legal cases, in addition to the criminal case. In one, the government is fighting Phoenix’s claim for a portion of the money its claimed to be owed. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also in court alleging the company was guilty of false, misleading and unconscionable conduct in recruiting students. The ACCC is seeking repayment of $106 million.

The administrators’ report shows that ACN paid its brokers between 15 and 30% of the value of its courses to the salesmen who recruited students. More than 905  of students were signed to double diplomas – which gave them a $36,000 debt, suggesting brokers could earn almost $12,000 per sign-up.

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