Pete Evans has been confronted by A Current Affair over his involvement in a controversial hippie commune project – an earlier version of which saw investors allegedly lose their “life savings”.
But Evans dismissed the story as “fake news” and “propaganda”.
The former celebrity chef turned conspiracy theorist has recently been involved in promoting Nightcap, a proposed 3500-acre village development located an hour’s drive from Evans’ Byron Bay-based Evolve Health Lab.
For $290,000, investors can buy a plot of land in the commune, where, according to Evans’ website, they will “get back to the tribal wisdom of living in harmony with Mother Nature as well as the fundamental lore of Doing No Harm”.
But according to the Nine program, at least 20 mum-and-dad investors are still chasing more than $2 million they lost in a different scheme flogging the same land just a few years ago, dubbed Bhula Bhula, which ultimately went belly-up.
Bhula Bhula morphed into Nightcap, a much larger mega-commune – which takes in the original blocks – consisting of nearly 400 plots worth some $116 million.
People are reportedly already buying in, even though the development does not have a council development approval.
Former investors say they have tried to warn Evans about the business history of Nightcap’s creator, Adrian Brennock, who stars alongside Evans in the promotional video – but that “Paleo Pete” has ignored them.
ACA reports Mr Brennock was the sole director of the company that owned the Bhula Bhula land. Mr Brennock placed the company into voluntary liquidation and declared himself bankrupt.
Last year, Mr Brennock and another man, Phillip Dixon, were each awarded $200,000 in damages when they successfully sued a local blogger for defamation after she accused them of fraud over the scheme.
Supreme Court Justice Desmond Fagan ruled that while the failed commune project was “undoubtedly a debacle”, the blogger was unable prove her assertion that their conduct “went beyond folly to fraud”.
“People have lost money, they’ve lost their life savings,” Marshall asked as Evans sat in his car.
“You say ‘do no harm’, but is that really the case?”
Evans, filming the TV crew on his smartphone, replied, “Seems like more fake news – more propaganda.”
He added, “Good luck with your fake news story.”
Earlier, Marshall had ambushed Evans in classic A Current Affair style to question him about the project.
“Sorry to rock your Zen this morning – I wonder if you have a few moments to talk about Nightcap and the investment there?” Marshall said.
“What is the issue behind that?” Evans asked.
Marshall explained that the project had a “chequered history”.
“From my understanding, Nightcap is a wonderful project that I’m looking forward to being a part of, right? I didn’t create it, you understand that, don’t you?” he said.
Marshall replied that Evans was “selling land”.
Evans insisted he was “not selling anything”.
He then asked whether the ACA crew have “spoken to the people at Nightcap”.
The TV crew took his suggestion – but upon arriving at the proposed development site, an unidentified middle-aged man jumped out of a car and threatened to “bust this f***ing window”.
“Turn that f***ing camera off,” the man said.
“Turn that camera off, mate. It’s OK, just turn at f***ing camera off or I will bust this f***ing window.”
The former investors told the program they held a video meeting with Evans to give him a “heads up”, but “he did not really seem to take that on board”.
The local council reportedly passed a unanimous vote to oppose Nightcap at a recent meeting.
“Let’s just say there’s a whole lot of karma coming,” Andrew, one of the founders of the former scheme, told the program.