An obscure company with no website, no telephone number — and no employees — was used by one of Australia’s richest families to make $550,000 in secretive “donations” to the Liberal Party just weeks out from last year’s federal election.
Shopping centre billionaires the Lowy family made the “donations” via an obscure company called “Oryxium Investments Limited”, which — according to its own audited accounts — has “no employees”.
Legal documents filed with the Australian Electoral Commission state Oryxium Investments made three political “donations” last financial year, all in March and all to the Liberal Party.
Totalling $550,000, they make “Oryxium Investments” one of the biggest political donors in the country.
A form detailing the payments was filed with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in November.
According to the signed legal document, Orxium Investments is a stand-alone company that does not “operate or conduct business under any other names”.
This is false.
Oryxium Investments is part of a complex web of at least a dozen companies forming the Lowy Family Group: the $9.8 billion multinational business empire run by shopping centre tycoon Sir Frank Lowy and his sons David, Steven and Peter.
The Lowys, one of Australia’s best known business families, created the global Westfield retail empire before selling up the last of their shopping centre holdings in 2019.
Disclosure form for “Oryxium Investments”. Source: AEC
The AEC disclosure contains no information about Oryxium Investments other than its address (level 19/60 Martin Place Sydney); its nine-digit Australian Company Number and contact details for “manager” Anton Lever.
Seeking information about Oryxium Investments, such as the type of business it was and who owned it, The Klaxon called Lever.
Lever declined to provide the information, saying he was not “authorised” to do so.
“How did you get my details?” he asked.
We informed Lever his mobile number was listed on the AEC disclosure form.
When asked whether he was an employee of Oryxium Investments, Lever said “yes”.
The 2021-22 audited financial statements for Oryxium Investments state: “The company has no employees”.
When asked about this, Lever declined to comment further and said the “company secretary” of Oryxium Investments would come back to us.
That was on February 2.
We heard nothing back.
The following day The Klaxon put a series of detailed written questions to Lever and the Lowy family – including each of Frank, David, Steven and Peter.
We received no response.
The Lowys in New York City in 2019. From left: David Lowy, Steven Lowy, Sir Frank Lowy and Peter Lowy. Source: The Lowy Institute
Under federal law, entities making total political “donations” over the disclosure threshold – $14,500 in 2021-22 – must disclose those payments by filing an “annual donor return” with the AEC.
On the form, the donor is required to disclose whether it operates or conducts business “under any other business names”.
Donors are also required to provide the names of any other “related bodies corporate” covered by the disclosure return.
A body corporate simply means a legal entity. Companies, “statutory corporations” and “incorporated associations” are all body corporates.
On the signed legal document, regarding operating under “other other names” and “related bodies corporate”, Lever has ticked “no”.
Signed disclosure form for”Oryxium Investments”. Source: AEC
Online searches by The Klaxon for “Oryxium Investments” were fruitless: Google searches came up with no company website or other contact details.
The donation disclosure form filed with the AEC states the company’s address as “level 19, 60 Martin Place, Sydney”.
Completed in 2019, the $1 billion skyscraper at 60 Martin Place – which sits directly opposite the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of Australia – is described by owner Investa as “Sydney’s most prestigious commercial real estate address”.
Online searches for “level 19, 60 Martin Place” turns up websites for three entities: none of them Oryxium Investments.
They are Federal Government agency Infrastructure Australia; funds manager Elvest Co; and accountancy Oxley Advisers.
Each said they had never heard of Oryxium Investments.
“Each said they had never heard of Oryxium Investments”
60 Martin Place: “Sydney’s most prestigious residential address. Source: Investa
Through corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) the Federal Government charges the public tens of millions of dollars a year to access “public” information about companies.
A paid search of Oryxium Investments shows it was registered in June 2018 and its directors are David Lowy, 68 ; Steven Lowy, 60 and John Patrick Fanning, 51. Its company secretary is Rob Thomas, 54.
The Klaxon purchased an online copy of the company’s 2021-22 financial report.
The 24-page document cost $44.
It says David Lowy and Steven Lowy are “principals” of “LFG” which is “the private investment business and family office of the Lowy Family Group”.
Fanning is the “Chief Financial Officer of the Lowy Family Group”; and company secretary Thomas, is the “General Manager Finance” at “Lowy Family Group”.
Further extensive investigations by The Klaxon set out some of the web of companies comprising the Lowy Family Group, also known as “LFG”.
Oryxium Investments is one of at least 12 companies in the group, including LFG Global Services Australia, LFG 6, LFG 17 and LFG 22.
Oryxium Investments is one of at least 12 companies in the group, including LFG Global Services Australia, LFG 6, LFG 17 and LFG 22
A portion of the “Lowy Family Group” structure. Only “Orxium Investments” (highlighted) disclosed to AEC. Source: ASIC filings. Graphic: The Klaxon.
Infrastructure Australia lists its address as “Level 19, 60 Martin Place”.
Its website describes its role as setting the “policy agenda” on the “long-term opportunities for infrastructure reform” and assessing infrastructure proposals “seeking more than $250 million in Australian Government funding”.
An Infrastructure Australia media spokesman said he had never heard of Oryxium Investments. He said he was unaware of the Lowy family being located on the floor, although there were “other offices on the floor”.
Elvest Co founder Adrian Ezquerro also told The Klaxon he had never heard of Oryxium Investments and that he was unaware of the Lowy family having any connection to the floor.
At Oxley Advisers, a woman who answered the phone said had “never heard” of Oryxium Investments.
When pressed, she said she was aware the Lowy family had an office on the floor, although it was unmarked.
When asked what it said on the office door, she responded: “it says nothing”.
Annual donor disclosure form filed for “Oryxium Investments”. Source: AEC
Further analysis of the Lowy Family Group reveals Oryxium Investments not only has no employees, but its directors were paid “nil” last financial year.
Its auditor, Ernst & Young partner James Karekinian, wasn’t paid by Oryxium Investments either – that bill was picked up by a “related entity” – the Lowy Family Group’s LFG Global Services Australia.
“The audit fees for 2022 have been accrued by a relate entity, LFG Global Services Australia Pty Limited and will be charged to Oryxium Investments Limited as part of an investment and administrative agreement,” the accounts state.
The accounts further state that Oryxium Investments “acquired investments from related parties in the LFG Group of companies” and that it had loans both to an from “related entities” of Oryxium Investments.
“The company has no employees”, Oryxium Investments Limited. Source: ASIC
The AEC disclosure form states Oryxium Investments made a $250,000 “donation” to the Victorian branch of the party on March 3 last year, and “donations” to the party’s NSW branch of $250,000 and $50,000 on March 1 and March 31 respectively.
The Federal election was held on May 21.
The Lowy family declined to comment when asked why they had made the “donations”, or whether they considered they had complied with AEC disclosure requirements.
Unless disclosures are accompanied with a “notice of incomplete return”, donors must sign legally-binding assurances confirming their accuracy.
“I certify that the information contained in this return an its attachments is true and complete to the best of my knowledge, information and belief,” the Oryxium Investments disclosure is signed.
“I have made due and reasonable inquiries of the organisation on whose behalf I am authorised to complete this form.
“I understand that submitting a false or misleading return is an offence under Division 137.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995,” says the signed form.
The Criminal Code Act 1995 states the penalty for breaching Division 137.1 is “Imprisonment for 12 months”.
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