Auckland seafood wholesaler enters liquidation after fishy Iranian deal

The sole shareholder of an Auckland seafood wholesaler has placed his company into liquidation following a sour $2.9 million business deal stretching from Iran to South Korea.

So far, the liquidator’s report shows the company owes $3.65 million to unsecured creditors, $2.9 million of which is to Korean-based Silla Co for a tuna shipment that sat in an Iranian port while the country’s currency plummeted.

The sole shareholder and director of Oceanic Seafoods is Masoud Bassam Tabar, according to the Companies Office. The company changed its name to XV Services just before it entered liquidation on February 5.

Mr Bassam Tabar is now listed as the director and shareholder of Fine Foods, which incorporated last Wednesday and lists "seafood wholesaling" as its business classification with the Companies Office. 

Oceanic Seafoods purchased fish from New Zealand and international suppliers. Most of the seafood was sold to a related company in Iran, Khanevadeh Abi Protein Products Company.

In late 2010 Oceanic bought about 1200 tons of tuna from Silla, a Seoul-based deep-sea fishing company, for $US2.41 million which it intended to sell in Iran.

Between ordering the fish and delivering it to the Middle East, the market value of the Iranian rial fell, according to the liquidator’s report.

The sale was stalled as the fish sat at the port. Silla agreed to release the fish directly to the buyer, Khanevadeh.

Oceanic said it would guarantee the Iranian company’s debt to the Korean company, according to the liquidator’s report.

Meanwhile, the storage and demurrage fees added up for Oceanic. After the negotiations, Khanevadeh had to sell the fish below its purchase price because of the reduced shelf life.

Khanevadeh attempted a partial payment to Silla Co but it was, according to the liquidators report, rejected because of Korea’s sanctions against Iran and payments from Iranian banks.

The Iranian courts have ordered the Iranian and New Zealand companies to pay up, and they have appealed, the liquidator’s report says.

Oceanic further claims the Iranian courts do not have jurisdiction because it is a New Zealand company. The Korean company disagreed, issuing a statutory demand for payment in the New Zealand courts.

In August, Oceanic applied to the High Court to set aside Silla’s statutory demand for payment, claiming the debt was owed by Khanevadeh.

“After considering the cost of defending the claim in New Zealand and the financial position of the company, the shareholders resolved to liquidate the company,” the liquidator’s first report says.

In the High Court at Auckland this month, Associate Judge David Abbott struck out the application from the High Court proceedings and ordered Oceanic to pay Silla’s court costs.

Digby Noyce of RES Corporate Services has been appointed as liquidator.