MELBOURNE: A high-profile Indian billionaire businessman misappropriated 150 million dollars from his Australian fertiliser business for personal benefit like acquiring a mansion, luxury cars and his wife’s vegetarian restaurant chain, the Supreme Court of Victoria heard today.
Pankaj Oswal and his wife Radhika Oswal are fighting the legal battle against the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) for allegedly undervaluing shares of their fertiliser company to recoup millions in debts.
Philip Solomon, who represented the fertiliser company, told the court that Oswal used over 150 million dollars from the business for his and his wife’s benefit, in some instances using fake invoices.
“Almost all of the 150 million dollars personally benefited Pankaj Oswal and Radhika Oswal,” he said, adding that “Radhika or management requested or demanded Pankaj pay large sums of money”.
“Pankaj authorised payments, staff, when he clicked his fingers, jumped urgently,” Solomon said.
It was alleged that the misappropriation included 60 million dollars to a private Burrup trust account, 11 million dollars to a property in the exclusive suburb of Peppermint Grove in Western Australia, several million to parcels of land unrelated to the business and approximately 8 million dollars to Radhika’s restaurant chain in London and New York. Solomon alleged Oswal authorised payments for an Aston Martin, 3 million dollars for a boat and 3 million dollars in air travel, including a private jet for his daughter and his daughter’s friends for a holiday at Monkey Mia. “They’re not fertiliser assets… they’re not for the benefit of fertiliser,” Solomon told the court.
The misappropriations became “rampant” in 2010, with over 25 million dollars allegedly misappropriated in one month alone, Solomon said.
“There were invoices masquerading as true business invoices that were not, on which payments were made and the payments flowed in and quickly out of these entities,” he said.
Earlier in the ongoing trial, the defence team of Oswal accused ANZ and its senior executives, including former chief executive Mike Smith of “racial bigotry” in their dealings with the billionaires.
The Oswals have sued ANZ bank for 1.5 billion dollars after it allegedly seized and sold their Western Australian fertiliser company for 560 million dollars which the family claim was worth 1.385 billion dollars. The bank has denied the claims and said the Oswals misappropriated 150 million dollars from their Burrup Fertilisers for personal use.