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'100 trillion' from Zimbabwe part of N.S. fraudster's plan to repay victims

Quintin Sponagle is shown outside a Halifax provincial courtroom on Jan. 19, 2017. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Quintin Sponagle is shown outside a Halifax provincial courtroom on Jan. 19, 2017. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

A former financial manager from Nova Scotia is banking on a seemingly hypothetical situation where currencies around the world will be "reset," giving him the money to pay a $1.1-million fine related to an investment scam that swindled more than 200 victims, a judge heard Monday.

An ongoing hearing in Halifax provincial court has been examining whether Quintin Sponagle, 59, should be sent to prison after failing to meet a five-year deadline to pay the court-ordered fine related to his 2017 sentencing on one count of fraud.

An American man, David Sybesma, testified Monday by video that he has known Sponagle for 15 years, and that he holds "assets" for Sponagle that would cover the fine amount once they become "revalued."

In short and sometimes confusing testimony, Sybesma didn't explain in depth how the process would work, but suggested it involved the establishment of "asset-backed currencies" in 209 countries.

Sybesma said he and a group of like-minded people purchased assets for Sponagle because of the consultancy work he did for them.

The assets include "Zim notes," he said, with one worth "100 trillion," an apparent reference to banknotes that circulated in Zimbabwe during a period of hyperinflation in 2009. The African country has since moved to a different currency.

The trial is being held at Halifax provincial court
The trial is being held at Halifax provincial court

The hearing is being held at Halifax provincial court. (Robert Short/CBC)

Sponagle, who lives in Upper Vaughn, N.S., pleaded guilty seven years ago to one count of fraud involving 201 victims, many of them from church groups and his social circle.

They had invested $4.4 million in a financial firm Sponagle controlled that was incorporated in Panama and maintained an office in Windsor, N.S. At least $1.1 million was never put into investments, and was instead spent on cars, recreational vehicles and international travel.

Sponagle was extradited to Canada from Panama after spending 19 months in a notorious prison in the Central American country. He pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in Canada and was handed probation and a fine.

Sponagle has said he doesn't have the money to pay the court fine, although he maintains he wants to do so. In order for him to be sent to prison, the Crown must show that Sponagle has the means to pay, but is not willing to do so.

Current U.S. government a 'corporation'

It was not made clear in court where Sybesma, who described himself as a truck driver, farmer and business consultant, is located.

He referenced in his testimony the creation of the U.S federal reserve in 1913, called the current American government a "corporation," and said he only dealt in cash for his daily needs. He also testified in vague terms about a project in Vietnam and Cambodia.

At one point during the hearing, prosecutor Shauna MacDonald asked Sybesma if he believed he was "entitled to assets by virtue of being a person, is that what you're saying?" "Yes," Sybesma replied.

The hearing continues Tuesday, and Sponagle is expected to testify.

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