true crime

How Sydney conman Hamish McLaren convinced everyone he was a millionaire.

Conman Hamish McClaren is a master manipulator. He swindled victim after victim around the world, taking tens of millions of dollars from them.

But through listening to The Australian’s investigative podcast Who The Hell Is Hamish a sinister and terrifyingly convincing pattern of behaviour is emerging, that shows exactly how this criminal convinced people he was someone they should trust.

When Aussie actor Matt Nable met him in 2000, he’d made a name for himself as a high-flier thanks to his trophy girlfriend; model and TV personality Gabrielle Richens or ‘The Pleasure Machine’ as she was known.

He had boats, multiple flashy cars and houses, and private jets. He appeared to have it all, and was at every A-list party in Sydney.

Here is a chat Mia had on No Filter with Bec Rosen, Hamish McLaren’s ex-wife.

He told Nable, who was Hamish’s strength and conditioning coach at the time, he was best friends with Tom Cruise and Kerry Packer.

“He would put on a show that was so elaborate and so easy to invest in,” Nable told the podcast.

“He had manufactured such a show, a pantomime. I remember looking at him thinking ‘this guy is doing so well’,” he said.

But how? How did he manufacture such a show?

Gabrielle Richards
Hamish dated TV personality and model Gabrielle Richens in the 90s. It added to his cover - of being someone rich and powerful. Image: Getty.

In the mid 1990s Hamish was a trader on Sydney Futures Exchange floor. It was a private boys club at its core, they were all from similar demographics and and became friends...despite being competitors.

In that circle, Hamish was known as a "one trade Charlie."

"He used to have a local seat on the floor and he'd trade, but he'd trade one or two a day but would make out it was 20 - 30. It was all rubbish. He was full of s***," trader Tom Brown told the podcast.

Basically, he'd talk big but trade small. He was there as local trader, which means he didn't work for anyone. Doing that, fellow trader Nick Park explained he would be lucky to make $40,000 a year.

At first, he was just the butt of jokes, and was ridiculed for being a fanciful liar.

"We used to laugh at him. No matter what you'd done, he'd have done better," said Mr Park.

If someone told the group about their recent skiing trip, Hamish would tell everyone he used to be a leading ski instructor.

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If someone told the group about the laps they'd done on the weekend at the local race track, suddenly Hamish used to be a Formula 1 driver.

But the group started to form the opinion that there was something a bit more sinister about Hamish, when they started to realise he had a lot of unexplained wealth. They'd seen him trade. There was no way he was earning that.

And yet Hamish had been learning their lingo, drinking in their knowledge and refining his pitch. He was then using his well oiled pitch in the outside world on unsuspecting victims.

He'd coerce people in on the promise of "extraordinary returns." The podcast has been exploring story after story where victims are fleeced of their life savings, their retirement, their children's education.

He'd drain a victim or victims of their money, and move on to find a clean slate. He was known as Hamish Watson, Hamish Phillip, Hamish Maxwell - the list of fake names goes on.

"I look back and see the destruction he caused. I wish I could have done more," said Mr Park. "It appears this man was so wrapped up in his path of destruction there might not have been nothing that could have stopped him."

When asked where he thinks the money might be Mr Park suggested that he could quite easily have spent it, but he suspects he's squirrelling some away.

"I believe he has somehow siphoned it off and he's keeping it somewhere," he said.

The traders who worked alongside Hamish at that time, would never have trusted him. They knew something was up, explained Mr Park. But the problem is, they weren't his targets. He'd go for those outside that world.

"He'd con anyone. He's that good at what he does," added Mr Nable.

"Mate it wouldn't matter who you put him in front of. You could put him in front of world leaders and he'd endear himself and they'd hand over money to him," he told the podcast.

Hamish McLaren is being sentenced in June over 18 fraud charges to which he pleaded guilty to.

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