Biotech chief quits as firm hunts for missing millions

The chief executive of a Melbourne pharmaceutical company has stepped down amid an investigation into the disappearance of up to $5 million from the company's accounts. Esra Ogru was suspended by the board of Phosphagenics on July 1, after the company noticed irregularities in its invoicing and accounting records.

The chief executive of a Melbourne pharmaceutical company has stepped down amid an investigation into the disappearance of up to $5 million from the company's accounts. Esra Ogru was suspended by the board of Phosphagenics on July 1, after the company noticed irregularities in its invoicing and accounting records.

The company told the stock exchange on Monday it had received Ms Ogru's resignation, effective Thursday, July 18.

While the company would not say how much was at stake, it is understood between $3 million and $5 million has been misappropriated.

Phosphagenics, which is worth $107.1 million, invests in new technology that delivers cosmetic and pharmaceutical products such as insulin through the skin.

Property records show Phosphagenics last week slapped caveats over four properties owned by Ms Ogru, together worth more than $2.3 million.

Phosphagenics claims it has an interest in Ms Ogru's land holdings, including her $586,000 family home in Melbourne suburb Wheelers Hill, "as chargee pursuant to an equitable charge".

If the caveats are not removed by a court, they will give Phosphagenics the right to share in the proceeds of any sale of the properties.

In addition to the Wheelers Hill property, Phosphagenics has laid claim to a $321,000 unit in Mount Waverley, a $350,000 house in Noble Park and a $1 million beachside house in Portarlington, on Port Phillip Bay.

The caveats were registered on Wednesday and Thursday - the day Ms Ogru resigned her position at Phosphagenics.

The company appointed a legal and accounting firm to investigate the irregularities when it noticed them in June.

A spokesman for the company said it expected to announce the findings of the investigation to the stockmarket on Wednesday.

The company does not need to report the missing funds to police as it is not required to do so under Victorian law.

Executive director and joint chief executive Harry Rosen, who is based in the company's New York office, has assumed the role of sole chief executive in Ms Ogru's absence.

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