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Convicted conman impressed Australian acquaintances with Dutch royal kinship

Extradition sought by unnamed countries

Tags: Hofman Case Investigation

CAIRNS, Australia - An international tug-of-war has begun over a conman who stole millions of dollars from mum-and-dad investors in small communities in northeast Australia. Piet Cornelius Walters, in Canada known as Fred S. Hofman Sr., found guilty in Cairns District Court of stealing almost $1 million of the $10 million that vanished in his illegal investment scheme, may never spend one day of his eight-year jail sentence in an Australian prison.

It is believed that Canadian police want 71-year-old Hofman for a largely identical investment fraud which netted him more than $20 million in the late 1980s, investigators said. It also is suggested Dutch authorities wanted to claim him amid allegations he had links to the royal family there.

His Australian wife, Virginia Ransom - who has been living with Walters/Hofman in a historic Tasmanian mansion - was found to have no connection to the fraud and faced no charges.

Australian immigration officials could not explain how the man on the Canadian 10 most wanted fugitives list, managed to travel to Australia in 1991, overstay his visa and then change his name and continue to live in the country.

While liquidators tried to recover more than $10 million missing in Walters` illegal scheme known as Drury Management, his victims were left almost destitute, with little hope of getting any of their cash back, a forensic accountant warned. According to the researcher, some money was moved offshore into Canada and placed into companies that have subsequently collapsed.

Walters/Hofman told friends and investors he was the son of the late Prince Bernhard, flew a flag displaying the royal family`s standard and even wore their family emblem on his wedding day. It was common knowledge among the Walters/Hofman circle of friends that he was Dutch royalty.

In Canada, Hofman on various occasions attended receptions organized by the Vancouver-based Consulate General in honour of Princess Margriet and in 1988 for Queen Beatrix. Hofman immigrated with his parents Fred and Riek and family to Canada in the early 1950s.

Before that, in 1997, Canadian police had issued a warrant for his arrest in relation to an alleged $9.7 million investment fraud between 1986 and 1991, although anecdotal evidence suggests the haul was far more than $20 million. In addition, a number of Dutch investors lost amounts running into the millions as well.

A barefoot and unshaven Walters appeared briefly in Cairns Magistrates Court for his extradition hearing before Magistrate John Hodgins, a few days following his conviction. The hearing was adjourned for another day.