A West Australian financial adviser who has worked across some of Australia's largest licensees could face 15 years in jail after being charged with four counts of dishonest conduct in relation to hardship superannuation requests.
Rahul Goel is an authorised representative of Australian Financial Directions and committed the alleged offences under his business AR Wealth and Finance. Previously, Goel was licensed by two of Australia's largest licensees, Synchron (2016-2018) and AMP (2013-2016).
Goel's behaviour was uncovered when AustralianSuper handed ASIC a report in 2019 containing concerns the fund held. Goel had submitted numerous applications to AustralianSuper for the early release of members' funds on the grounds of hardship.
The report raised concerns that in the course of procuring early release, Goel or someone he worked with had misrepresented themselves to AustralianSuper as being the members in question.
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AustralianSuper identified up to 67 members impacted by Goel's alleged conduct.
Several of these members, ASIC alleges, were residents of remote communities and Aboriginal people.
"Further inquiries that ASIC made of fund members suggest that in most instances, the email addresses given on the forms were Gmail addresses that were not email addresses used by the members," the interim judgement on the matter said.
"It may also be that the signatures on some of the forms were not the members' signatures. Some forms also gave bank account details that were not the members' bank accounts. Instead, according to ASIC's investigations, they were bank accounts for Mr Goel or his associates."
ASIC listened to recordings AustralianSuper had made of phone calls relating to the applications and the regulator had reason to believe that the fund members were being impersonated by someone.
One woman who accessed early release through Goel interviewed by ASIC was on Centrelink benefits and had a newborn baby. Goel allegedly told her she could get her super but did not inform her of fees.
ASIC alleges several calls were made to AustralianSuper impersonating this woman, which she did not authorise and a hardship application form was submitted to the fund which she did not prepare or authorise.
Following the application, $7800 was paid into a bank account of an associate of Goel and then $6500 was paid to the AustralianSuper member from that.
Goel later refunded the $1300 "fee" which he had obtained that way, ASIC said.
If convicted, each offence carries a maximum penalty of 15 years' imprisonment.