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Oswals fled Australia when game was up

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INDIAN couple Pankaj and Radhika Oswal fled Australia when they realised the game was up after skimming money off the top of their fertiliser business, a court has heard.

The Oswals effectively ran a Ponzi scheme, a fraudulent investment operation, and planned to “sail back to India” at the end of it, US oil and gas company Apache Corporation’s barrister Stewart Anderson QC said.

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“When they saw the game was up they left the country in their private jet and let everything unravel.”

Mr Anderson said the Oswals concealed $US490 million in secret cost overruns in the construction of the Burrup ammonia plant, including from an unsuspecting public during a failed initial public offering in 2008.

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The ANZ bank and other financiers were told the construction contract price was set at $US320 million, despite Mr Oswal knowing it could cost as much as $US300-400 million more, the Victorian Supreme Court heard on Monday.

Mr Anderson said Apache would have ended its gas supply agreement if it had known about the cost overruns.

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He said the only way the Oswals completed the ammonia plant, in 2006, was by hiding the excessive costs.

“They did so because the plant was making a staggering amount of profits which meant that they were able to skim moneys off the top and apply to the cost overruns and their own lifestyle.”

The court has heard more than $150 million in Burrup Fertilisers’ money was spent on the couple’s Perth mansions including the unfinished “Taj Mahal on the Swan”, luxury cars, a private jet and Mrs Oswal’s vegetarian restaurants.

Mr Anderson said the misappropriation and stripping out of cash “went out of control” after a December 2009 deal with the ANZ giving the Oswals time to sell their shares.

“They knew time was running out and they made the most of the time that they had by taking as much as they could,” he said.

“It was still within their power to cover up their fraudulent scheme, sell their shares and head back to India, problem solved, after having stripped in excess of $150 million from the company.”

Mr Anderson said the Oswals’ two personal financial advisers were paid $US26 million to keep quiet about the cost overruns, after initially demanding $US50 million.

The Oswals left Australia in December 2010, a few days before the ANZ appointed receivers to their Burrup business.

“Quite tellingly, just prior to this blowing up, they left Australia, which is not the conduct of someone who is honest we would say,” Mr Anderson said.

The Oswals left Australia in December 2010, a few days before the ANZ appointed receivers to their Burrup business.

They returned in April this year and want up to $2.5 billion from the ANZ and receivers over the sale of their 65 per cent stake in Burrup Holdings.

They also want damages from Apache, which has a $US400 million counterclaim against the couple.

‘SHE KNEW WHERE THE MONEY CAME FROM’

The court also heard that Mrs Oswal knew where the money came from to fund their lavish Perth lifestyle and the $70 million “Taj Mahal on the Swan” mansion.

Mr Oswal spent more than $150 million in company money on two Perth mansions, a private jet, luxury yacht, luxury cars, his wife’s vegetarian restaurant chain and other lavish personal expenses, the Victorian Supreme Court has again heard.

Mr Anderson rejected suggestions Mrs Oswal was really just a spectator in her husband’s business operations, saying she was intimately involved.

“She knew where the money came from to spend $70 million on a mansion,” Mr Anderson told the court.

“She knew where the money came from to buy a private jet.

“She knew where the money came from to buy a luxury yacht.

“She knew where the money came from to buy luxury cars, and it certainly wasn’t her restaurant business.”

Mr Anderson will continue his opening submission for Apache, which had a gas supply agreement with Burrup Fertilisers, on Tuesday.

Online Source

The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia

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