Ontario’s now-infamous Pigeon King, Arlan Galbraith, has been ordered into personal bankruptcy, which may allow investors in his pigeon-farming operations to claim some of his personal assets.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record reported Wednesday that Galbraith didn’t contest the order from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in London during a brief hearing that day.
Galbraith’s Pigeon King International (PKI) recruited an estimated 1,000 investors, mostly farmers and Hutterite colonies across Canada and the U.S., to breed pigeons, allegedly for squab or pigeon meat for the food market.
Record reporter Chuck Howitt said Waterloo Regional Police’s fraud division is still investigating PKI, which went bankrupt in 2008, leaving would-be pigeon breeders up to an estimated $40 million in losses and vast numbers of now-worthless pigeons.
PKI is now alleged to have been a Ponzi scheme in which the only revenue paid to PKI’s early breeder/investors came from the investments of new breeders.
PKI investors led by James Wiersma of Fisherville, Ont. filed court actions against Galbraith after the company’s bankruptcy, as Galbraith himself did not declare personal bankruptcy at the time.
The plaintiffs sought Galbraith’s personal assets, such as his house at Cochrane, Ont., claiming they had invested with him before PKI was incorporated.
Howitt quoted Galbraith’s lawyer, Steven Gadbois of Waterloo, as saying the businessman decided Dec. 11 to consent to a personal bankruptcy order.
A review of evidence indicated Galbraith had no other options and he sought to avoid the legal bills of a long court battle, Gadbois was quoted as saying.
Howitt also noted that Wiersma and other creditors are still seeking net proceeds from the sale of Galbraith’s previous Waterloo home in late 2008, although the Canada Revenue Agency seized those proceeds claiming unpaid taxes.
The Kitchener office of BDO Dunwoody, PKI’s bankruptcy trustee, will now also handle Galbraith’s bankruptcy, the newspaper reported.
London, Ont. lawyer Frank Highley, representing Wiersma, was quoted by Howitt as saying any assets now seized from Galbraith will be distributed to creditors on a pro rata basis, meaning assets will be split up proportional to the debt owed to the creditor.
According to a separate article Wednesday from Ontario farmers’ magazine Better Farming, Highley said the bankruptcy takes effect immediately and essentially puts control of Galbraith’s own assets in the hands of BDO Dunwoody.
Gadbois told The Record’s Howitt any lawsuits filed against Galbraith will now likely be dropped due to the bankruptcy order.
According to Better Farming Wednesday, such lawsuits would include civil actions filed by Robert Siebring, who operated pigeon barns for Galbraith and PKI near Palmerston, Ont., and Fred Clement of Rossburn, Man., who leased barns to Galbraith and PKI.
Howitt quoted a report from BDO last year as saying Galbraith had paid himself $400,000 a year in salary and shareholder draws through PKI from 2006 to 2008.
But Better Farming quoted Gadbois as saying Galbraith’s property at Cochrane appears to be the businessman’s only major asset. His debt, Gadbois told the ag journal, “is going to exceed the amount available by a significant component.”