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Bizarre email highlighted at court hearing into B.C. mortgage broker who owes investors millions

British Columbia Supreme Court proceedings against Greg Martel, the Victoria mortgage broker who owes investors almost a quarter billion dollars, took an absurdist twist Friday when a bizarre email from Martel was read into the record.

In it, Martel accuses court-appointed receiver PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) of being the reason he hasn't complied with court orders to provide banking information and financial documents. He also references the FBI and threatens to "file charges to PwC and a formal complaint to the judge."

Additionally, Martel states in the email: "My hands are tied, and I have no problem proving this isn't the case in court Friday."

Martel was not in court Friday, nor did he furnish the information demanded by the court. Martel is said to be out of the country, possibly in Thailand, although his exact whereabouts are a mystery.

The email was sent to a PwC investigator trying to track investors' missing millions.

In a related twist, Martel's lawyer Ritchie Clark announced in court Friday he was withdrawing from the case, citing "ethical reasons." 

A new lawyer, Helen Sevenoakes, told Madame Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick her firm had been retained by Martel late Thursday night and "need[ed] to get up to speed."

Martel and his company, Shop Your Own Mortgage (SYOM), were put into receivership six weeks ago after more than a dozen investors filed civil suits against him, claiming they were owed money.

A man wearing sunglasses and a ball cap in swim trunks and a sweater sits in a boat on a white bench, smoking a cigar and smiling broadly at the camera while the vast expanse of a deep blue sea is laid out behind him.
Greg Martel has not been co-opertaive with court and receivership proceedings trying to recover the $226 million he owes to investors. (Greg Martel/Facebook)

According to PwC, Martel continues to stymie investigators and has provided only partial or inaccurate information about assets, including outrageously inflating the value of some of his business interests that have, in fact, turned out to be worthless. 

PwC has calculated Martel owes investors $226 million. To date, only $340,000 has been recovered, according to PwC lawyer Peter Rubin. 

Martel and SYOM were purportedly in the business of providing private bridge loans to real estate developers needing short-term financing. Martel attracted investors with promises of sky-high interest rates that, on an annualized basis, often exceeded 100 per cent.

Worried investors have accused him of running a Ponzi scheme, but Martel has denied it.

So far, investigators have found no documentation, no loan agreements and no company or person that can confirm they ever borrowed from Martel and SYOM. And Martel isn't co-operating.

"What it comes down to is that Mr. Martel has not provided the bridge loan details for a single bridge loan. Not one," said Rubin.

A spreadsheet recovered by PwC investigators appears to list borrowers who received bridge loans. However, individuals on the list are only identified by a single name with no contact information. According to PwC, Martel told them he used "code names" for borrowers to "protect" them but has not complied in identifying anyone.

PwC said it contacted 15 corporations named as borrowers on the list. Five responded, including Victoria, B.C. company Hutchinson Contracting, saying they had never borrowed money from Martel.

PwC said it is still waiting for information about a number of Martel's bank accounts in Canada and the U.S., along with his account at Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange. 

PwC has brought an application to charge Martel with contempt should his non-compliance continue. If approved, it means he could face fines or jail time, assuming he returns to Canada. 

Justice Fitzpatrick has allowed that the contempt order, should it come into force, can be served to Martel via email instead of in person. 

The next court date has not been set.