High-flying businessman charged by ASIC with dishonestly obtaining $35 million

A high-flying businessman has been charged by the corporate watchdog with dishonestly using his position to obtain more than $31 million, while allegedly duping clients of a further $4 million.

Renato ‘Rennie’ De Maria, 55, became accustomed to private jets and racing his high-performance Porsche after founding financial services business Alliance Insurance Broking Services (AIBS) 26 years ago, of which he was sole director.

ASIC raided the offices of De Maria’s business in April 2021.

But on Wednesday he appeared before Mansfield Magistrates’ Court after a lengthy investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Charge sheets obtained by The Age reveal De Maria allegedly transferred over $24 million between an AIBS trust account and other accounts controlled by him, while also authorising three withdrawals totalling $7.9 million which were ultimately transferred back to him via a third party.

De Maria has also been charged with 13 counts of dishonest conduct by allegedly inflating more than $4 million worth of insurance invoices to four clients involved in the property industry.

Investigators from the ASIC raided the South Melbourne offices of De Maria’s business in April 2021, before obtaining an urgent interim order in the Federal Court against De Maria and Alliance Insurance Broking Services Pty Ltd, pending further investigations.

De Maria has been charged with 13 counts of dishonest conduct.

The court order from May 2021 restrained the transfer of funds from five business accounts and a personal account held by De Maria, while also preventing the disposal of property or assets held by De Maria or his company.

“In support of its application for the interim orders, ASIC alleged that De Maria caused substantial client money held by Alliance Insurance Broking Services Pty Ltd to be improperly paid into a bank account for his own personal benefit,” ASIC stated in a media release on July 13, 2021.

“As an Australian financial services licence holder dealing in financial products, AIBS is required to hold client money in trust.”

The company was sold for $24.5 million in August 2021, and the freezing order was removed in April last year.

According to a profile on his former company’s website, De Maria is an “Australian business leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist”.

“Earning respect from business partners, staff and clients, both in Australia and overseas, for his professional, ethical and integrous management style and service Mr De Maria has enjoyed success as a market leader in his chosen field of expertise,” the online profile states.

De Maria, who did not respond to requests for comment from The Age, will appear in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on June 28 for a committal mention.

He lives on a sprawling estate in Merrijig, near Mansfield, that includes eight bedrooms, a library, private helipad and three-hole golf course. In 2021, the 55-year-old sold a Toorak mansion for about $9 million.

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