Uncertainty about if and when "Ponzi scheme mastermind" Melissa Caddick died is complicating scammed investors' attempts to recoup lost funds.
The self-styled financial adviser went missing in November 2020 hours after the corporate regulator raided the then-49-year-old's home in Sydney coastal suburb Dover Heights.
The Federal Court has since been told she swindled more than $30 million in funds over eight years, leaving investors a shortfall as high as $23.7 million.
Corporate regulator ASIC has sought orders that would have an insolvency practitioner take over Ms Caddick's estate and begin the work of calculating the partial returns available to investors and other creditors.
Doing so would lead to efficiencies and "obviate or at least reduce the need for full-blown" litigations, Farid Assaf SC said on Wednesday.
Ms Caddick's family seeking particular pieces of property would have a forum to make a claim while sparing investors "who have already been through enough" the expense and the stress of more court proceedings.
But besides a March 17 email from a police officer suggesting a coroner may direct an inquest, Nicholas Bender said uncertainty remained about the "elephant in the room" - whether Ms Caddick was in fact dead.
Mr Bender, appointed as a contradictor to make submissions in her absence, said the Federal Court needed to wait for a coroner to make a finding about Ms Caddick's death.
Creditors would then be able to make claims against her estate.
"The other potential scenario is the first defendant may still be alive," he said.
Were that the case, the court was effectively trying her in her absence for unlawfully operating without an Australian financial services licence without any proof she was aware of the proceedings, he said.
Mr Bender urged Justice Brigitte Markovic not take the step of causing Ms Caddick's assets to be sold "at this time" in light of the "unusual circumstances" in the case and his alternate plan.
That plan involved liquidating Maliver, a company ASIC alleges Ms Caddick used to "disguise the fraudulent Ponzi scheme of which she was the mastermind".
The liquidators could set about assessing creditors' claims, including those against Ms Caddick for her alleged misappropriation of investors' funds destined for the company.
Mr Bender also suggested Ms Caddick's estate may not be bankrupted given the only known creditors were the tax office ($130,000) and issuers of two credit cards.
Judge Markovic had expressed concern about an ASIC plan to effectively pool Ms Caddick's and Maliver's assets to speed up claims.
Jumping over regular steps to make the process simpler could result in more complexity and unravelling, should competing claims eventuate down the track, she said.
Ms Caddick is accused of portraying herself as a wealthy businesswoman with a "prowess in creating wealth".
Using hundreds of pages of faked documents, she convinced trusting family, friends and acquaintances to hand over retirement and investment funds.
In reality, she used investors' funds to buy real estate, motor vehicles, artworks and jewellery, Mr Assaf has said.
She returned $8.5 million - including nearly all of one couple's $900,000 investment.
But one man, who'd known Ms Caddick since he was a child and trusted her with $1.3 million for retirement and investment purposes, wasn't so fortunate.
"He's received nothing," Mr Assaf said.
Mr Assaf said it was plain that Ms Caddick, through Maliver, perpetrated "quite an elaborate fraud"
The only part of Ms Caddick found since her disappearance was her partial, decomposing foot.
It washed up in a running shoe on a beach about 400km south of Sydney in February 2021.
The hearing continues on Thursday.
Australian Associated Press