Investors’ support group a lifeline

Vanya Thurston knows better than most the torture Barry Kloogh has put his clients through.

Since setting up the Breathe Investors support group 14 months ago, along with two other affected people, Ms Thurston has heard dozens of heart-rending stories about how Kloogh’s thefts have devastated lives.

"I think it has had an involvement in some people’s premature deaths, I believe it has contributed to people’s health issues, people have felt suicidal, it has had a huge effect," Ms Thurston said.

"You would hear these awful stories; you would get off the phone from speaking to people and it would be quite unbelievable; sometimes they were in shock and breaking down.

"It is one thing taking money, but taking money from some of these people, given their personal circumstances, is on another level."

Former clients regard the group as a lifeline, and meeting other people going through what they were going through meant they could tell their stories to someone who could empathise, Ms Thurston said.

"The peer support has been outstanding. It helped counter the feeling of isolation.

"People didn’t necessarily want to tell their friends or family, they didn’t want that to be known, whereas in the group everyone was in the same position and there was no judgement at all," Ms Thurston said.

Another investor said if they did not have the group "I don’t know what we’d do".

Breathe Financial Planning. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Breathe Financial Planning. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH


"For the first few months we felt totally left on our own, but that group’s been good and we have made some particularly good friends."

Another said the group had been tremendous support when she had needed it.

"I remember going to my first meeting and thinking we had made these really silly decisions and were so stupid, how had we made this mistake and trusted this man?

"Then we walked into this room and saw all these other people who were just the same — intelligent, normal people who had worked hard for their money, and we were all in the same boat."

Ms Thurston and her husband met Kloogh in late 2016 to discuss investing $200,000.

"He would have really quite liked it when he came across us, I would say," she said.

"In late 2018 my husband and I had a conversation and we said ‘we don’t feel good about this, we need to get our money out’ but we didn’t."

Around 200 people are in the group, many but by no means all of the people who have had money stolen by Kloogh.

Soon after it started a group of lawyers and other professionals offered to help.

Their involvement had been outstanding, Ms Thurston said.

"It restored some faith in people, that people could do some good.

"Just having knowledge they were willing to share and doing it at no cost, we would have been lost without them."

The group expects to keep going after yesterday’s sentencing, as there is still a long process awaiting all the affected investors before the Kloogh saga is resolved.

"For some people losing even $10,000 is like losing a million," Ms Thurston said.

"Everyone is feeling the same."

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