MILLIONS of dollars in company money Indian businessman Pankaj Oswal used for his own benefit turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg, a court has heard.
When the co-shareholder in the Oswals’ Australian fertiliser business became concerned about Mr Oswal receiving $22 million for no proper reason, he agreed to repay it in instalments, a trial heard.
Yara Australia barrister John Sheahan QC said Yara discovered payments by Burrup Fertilisers for Mr Oswal’s personal expenses or those of related Oswal parties, offset by the $22 million “guarantee fee”.
The Victorian Supreme Court heard the amounts uncovered by Yara included $23 million paid to the Oswals’ Burrup Trust and payments for luxury cars and boats.
“Yara is just uncovering the tip of the iceberg as it were,” Mr Sheahan told the court on Thursday.
The court has heard Mr Oswal misappropriated more than $150 million from Burrup Fertilisers over three years, including millions spent on the vegetarian restaurant chain of his wife Radhika and on Perth homes including the unfinished “Taj Mahal on the Swan” mansion.
It has heard the misappropriation escalated dramatically in the year before the ANZ appointed receivers in December 2010, after the bank gave Oswals more time to sell their Burrup Holdings shares.
Yara’s lawyers asked the corporate watchdog in January 2011 to investigate Mr Oswal’s conduct, saying it had been concerned for some time about issues such as an unusually high level of expenses and dividends being paid to the Oswals but not Yara.
Mr Sheahan said Yara was starting to understand that significant payments had been made to Oswal entities apparently unconnected with the fertiliser business.
Yara had not been told about the Oswals’ December 2009 deal with the ANZ to sell shares in parent company Burrup Holdings, nor that Mr Oswal had allegedly forged security documents.
That would have “added fuel to the fire” of Yara’s concerns and sparked an investigation.
“It would have been very difficult for Mr Oswal in the period which followed to accelerate his campaign of misappropriating assets of the company,” Mr Sheahan said.
He said the Oswals also repeatedly tried to convert Burrup Holdings from a public to a private company, which would have removed the need for investigations into related-party transactions.
The court has heard Mr Oswal denied misappropriating company funds and now argued the payments were partly in restitution of debts connected with construction of the Burrup ammonia plant in Western Australia.
The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia