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Investors feud sparks bargain sale after unpaid charges

BARGAIN: Bought for $830,000 in 2004, this Baffle Creek property was sold for only $345,001 at a fire sale by the council.
BARGAIN: Bought for $830,000 in 2004, this Baffle Creek property was sold for only $345,001 at a fire sale by the council.

INFIGHTING has destroyed a property syndicate's dream of a lucrative seaside investment - and cost it half a million dollars.

Eleven years ago a Sydney- based investment group of 18 owners bought the 544 Fingerfield Rd property for $830,000.

Many of the Vietnamese, Thai, Lao and Cambodian nationals were married couples, and cousins, buying a solid investment with beach access in a prosperous and growing area of Queensland.

But Gladstone Regional Council was forced to fire sale the 139ha Baffle Creek property in order to recoup three years' of unpaid charges.

It sold for $345,001 , what local estate agents are describing as "a steal".

And in a bizarre twist, we understand it is one of the original owners leading a new group of investors to the purchase.

A Stalemate over paying their rates led to the Sydney-based investment group owing about $100,000 to state and local governments.

One of the original investors, 50-year-old Vilayphone Panya, put $180,000 into the property.

Yesterday she explained that relationships in the group had broken down and everyone had simply stopped paying their bills.

"People couldn't agree on what to do. They got upset and stopped paying the land tax," she said.

"Once they stopped we all stopped.

"I lost a lot of money and now I don't speak to my friends in the group.

"Now I have split with my husband and I want a separate cheque to him."

But it will be slim pickings for Ms Panya after the State Government takes $30,000 and the council about $70,000 in owing taxes.

Another investor, Pivong Pavan, was enticed into joining in 2007.

"I put in $70,000 and I hope to get about $10,000 back," he said. "We would have been fine if we all stuck together but because of all the trouble it has been a horrible investment."

Another former partner, Ben Nhem, who we understand has an Order of Australia medal for his charity work with Cambodians in Australia, stopped his involvement in the project after the disputes too.

"People broke up with their partners and nobody speaks anymore," he said.

"As soon as someone stopped paying their taxes it just got difficult and not nice."

Local real estate agent Don Young said $345,000 was a very low price for the property.

"It has creek access and should have been another $100,000-$150,000 more," he said.

"It's a big block and would be a good investment."

Gladstone Regional Council alerted owners of 20 properties in November that they would be auctioned if their finances were not sorted out. The Baffle Creek property was one of those, but it was the only one to go to auction.

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