Founder of bankrupt real estate company appears in court

Paul Bibby

The founding director of Byron’s now-defunct high-end real estate agency, Unique Estates, reappeared in a Sydney court on 15 charges yesterday.

Nicolette Van Wijngaarden appeared in the Downing Centre Local Court on 10 charges of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and five charges of being an accessory to offences committed by a corporation.

The state’s Deputy Chief Magistrate, Michael Allen, allowed Ms Van Wijngaarden to remain on bail and ordered her to return to court on March 12.

The next step in the court proceedings involves Ms Van Wijngaarden facing a committal hearing which will determine whether or not she must face trial.

Court documents tendered previously show that the 44-year-old former Byron resident is now living in the well-to-do inner-city Melbourne suburb of Elwood.

She has had to hand in both her Australian and Dutch passports as a condition of bail, and is forbidden from entering any international airport or other point of departure from Australia.

She is also required to report to St Kilda police station once a week.

Van Winjgaarden faces up to 10 years jail if found guilty of the charges against her, which were laid after a lengthy investigation by forensic accountants.

In a statement to The Echo the Department of Finance said ‘the total quantum of money involved in all charges alleged is in excess of $3.5 million’.

Unique Estates was founded by Ms Van Wijngaarden in Byron Bay in 2009 as a boutique agency dealing with luxury properties.

It expanded significantly in the ensuing years to include offices in Albert Park, Double Bay, the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Hong Kong.

The agency also published the magazine Unique Luxury, which was distributed in Qantas lounges across the country.

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