FOR over a year now, of all the Mehajers, it’s been big brother Salim hogging the headlines.
From his multi-million dollar wedding to his wife’s estrangement, from his temporary sacking as deputy mayor of Auburn Council to his hauling in front of a public inquiry, it’s been all about Salim.
But now, somewhat reluctantly, his father Mohamad has been thrust into the spotlight too.
However, despite their seemingly close connection and similar business interests, Salim has insisted his father has only had a “small contribution” to his property empire.
He and his wife Amal, Salim’s mother, are due to appear in the Federal Court later this month as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) attempts to claw back $10 million it claims the couple owe taxpayers.
The news will come as a blow for the Mehajer clan which has recently been bolstered by good news.
It’s thought that an inquiry into the conduct of councillors at the former Auburn Council, of which Mehajer junior was the star witness, will largely exonerate the former deputy mayor, reported the Australian.
While the family are still on a high from the spectacular wedding of Salim’s sister Khadijeh (Kat) to Ibraham Sakalaki in August.
Kat and Ibraham aside, the ceremony was all about the Mehajer father and son.
Both gave speeches with Mohamad praising his newly married daughter. During the reception, held in a ballroom overlooking Sydney’s Hyde Park, Mohamad was at one point lifted above the wedding crowd by an adoring Salim.
From that high, now the low. Although the courtroom also overlooks Hyde Park the court case will be an altogether more serious occasion.
According to court documents, Mr Mehajer, 60, owes $6.8 million, and Mrs Mehajer, 56, owes more than $3 million in tax and interest.
If successful, the tax office will look to recover the debt by selling the senior Mehajer’s multi-million dollar property portfolio
The pair could be bankrupted by the action, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
While his son, who like Mohamad is a property developer, loves the spotlight his father prefers to stay out of the public gaze.
He emigrated to Australia from Lebanon in the 1980s with wife, the couple settling in Sydney’s west.
His career began modestly enough, with Mohamad working at the Arnott’s biscuit factory in Strathfield. From that humble start he began investing in property and hasn’t looked back.
Things were going swimmingly until Mohamad was convicted of conspiring to the defraud the National Australia Bank of more than $3 million. He had attempted to bribe a bank employee to approve a loan that overstated the value of the family property company.
He was sentenced to 3½ years in prison but was released early, in mid-2015. Salim reportedly delayed his weeding to his now estranged wife Aysha to August of that year to ensure his Dad could attend.
The ATO is still pursuing Salim for more than $1 million in unpaid taxes from two companies. These have now both been wound up by the tax office with the Mehajers running their property assets through other companies.
In September, the younger Mehajer was barred from managing corporations for three years by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
The corporate regulator made the decision, it said, to protect the public from his “incompetence” after finding Mr Mehajer’s business conduct “lacked commercial reality”.
The ruling was made directly in connection with the two companies wound up by the ATO due to the unpaid tax bill.
As a result, Salim can no longer directly run his companies. Luckily, there are no shortage of family members to take on the role — including Kat and his mother Amal. Mohamad is not a director of any Mehajer companies.
Despite both father and son having a love of property, Salim has rejected suggestions it is the elder Mehajer who is largely responsible for building his property assets.
Asked at the Auburn public inquiry if his father was responsible for much of his success, Salim replied, “no, that’s incorrect”.
“(My father) made a small contribution but 90 per cent of my success is myself,” he claimed, saying he operated his own business and never took over his father’s firms.
The ATO has been on the tail of Salim’s mother and father for some time.
In May, the tax office successfully sued the couple in the NSW Supreme Court over the unpaid bill but neither attended the court to defend the case.
Several weeks later, reports emerged that Mohamad, with Salim, had transferred $20 million off shore to Lebanon.
While the transfer was perfectly legal it raised the interest of the authorities given Salim’s high profile and a string of court cases.
In August, the tax office served bankruptcy notices on Mohamad and Amal but they failed to respond to that as well
Salim has had some setbacks in court cases. Last month, he failed to have a 12-moth apprehended violence order overturned preventing him from contacting personal trainer Bruce Herat.
But when it comes to his business and political life, he has fared better when it comes to his legal run ins. More often than not he has left the court with a clean bill of legal health.
In a few weeks we will see if his parents will also manage to come out of their upcoming stoush with their heads held as high.
Online Source: News.com.au.