by BETTER FARMING STAFF
More than five months after Arlan Galbraith was petitioned into personal bankruptcy, the trustee still hasn’t put the newly-built house where the former pigeon king continues to live, up for sale.
Creditors identified the sale of Galbraith’s home near Cochrane as a top priority at a January meeting in Kitchener. A document Galbraith supplied to the trustee estimates the property’s net realizable value at $300,000. He and his companies owe creditors tens of millions of dollars and his personal home on Frederickhouse Road west of Cochrane was his only apparent personal asset.
BDO Dunwoody, the trustee administering Galbraith’s bankruptcy has asked some realtors to represent them, says Susan Taves, a spokesperson and vice president “and we’ve had a few decline saying it’s not a property they’re interested in listing.”
Three Cochrane, Ontario realtors Better Farming contacted say they haven’t been approached. Realtor Miriam Hutchinson says she would be interested in the opportunity. People are looking for properties “and I really have nothing right now left.”
Rosemary Stevens, another local realtor, calls the idea of representing a foreclosed property with the former owner still living there a “volatile” situation especially when the former owner is under police investigation.
The Waterloo Police Service’s fraud squad and the RCMP are conducting a criminal investigation into Galbraith and his Waterloo-based pigeon breeding business. Its 2008 collapse left hundreds of pigeon breeders on both sides of the border with thousands of worthless birds and debts of nearly $40 million. Police have described the scheme as a Ponzi. Ponzis depend on money from new participants to pay earlier investors.
“I very seldom turn down listings,” Stevens says. “Why would I turn them down? But if I feel that my person would be in danger doing this, I’d be rather reluctant to do this.”
Hutchinson says the idea doesn’t bother her. “As long as it doesn’t bother them, it doesn’t bother me.”
Victor Palangio, who says he no longer does much real estate, notes that if BDO is not familiar with realtors in the area and is contacting ones based in Timmins, “I can kind of see why people say they don’t want to deal with it.” Timmins is about 120 kilometres away from Cochrane, he explains.
Hutchinson also wonders if BDO has contacted realtors based in Timmins, which might find the distance to the property a challenge. She wonders if there might be problems with the property’s location and accessibility. “I don’t know; I’d have to research it and see exactly where it is.”
Foreclosures can be hard to sell and sometimes not, she adds. “It depends on how you present them.”
As far as recouping other property-related funds, Taves says no resolution has yet been reached with the federal government to see if it would release proceeds from the 2008 sale of Galbraith’s former Waterloo residence. The federal government seized the funds, about $300,000, to cover outstanding GST payments. Taves says her office has communicated with the Department of Justice, which is looking into the request. “We expect a response sometime soon.”
Taves says they have not been able to determine if Galbraith owned another property in the United States, as suggested by creditors. It had been left at the meeting that if anyone had information, they would let BDO know, Taves says. To date, “we’ve received no information to even go hunting.”
In the meantime, the minutes from the January creditors’ meeting indicate BDO is accepting questions to Galbraith from creditors. These will be put to him during an examination by an officer with the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. Taves says the examination was deferred until after the creditor’s meeting “to see if anything came up.”
Creditors did not have a chance to ask Galbraith questions at the January meeting because BDO and creditor-appointed inspectors for PKI excused him. Galbraith had asked to be excused to avoid the expense of driving the roughly 900 km between Cochrane and Waterloo and staying at a hotel.
The minutes also mention the possibility of combining components of Pigeon King International’s and Galbraith’s bankruptcy proceedings as both files come to completion.
With the police investigation into the scheme ongoing and a Superintendent of Bankruptcy examination yet to be scheduled, Taves says it could be a wait before that step is taken.
“There’s probably not a whole lot that’s going to happen in the next little while,” she says.
Sgt. Robert Zensner, spokesman for the fraud branch says the investigation, says the investigation, which began more than a year ago, is ongoing. BF