Deceived Masala director claims he was 'impersonated'

Satwant Singh says he was never served with proceedings and an imposter acted on his behalf.

A man listed as a director of an entity linked to the Masala Indian restaurant chain claims he was deceived into his appointment and was later impersonated by an imposter in proceedings he knew nothing about.

Satwant Singh, a factory worker, also says he has had nothing to do with the company, which is subject to a $34 million asset restraining order, such that he has never even been to a Masala restaurant.

Liquidators Waterstone Insolvency have been pursuing Masala representatives Joti Jain, Rajwinder Grewal, Ravinder Kaur and Mr Singh for failing to comply with court orders in the liquidation of various entities.

In February, Justice Matthew Muir ordered the group provide “complete, candid and timely compliance” with liquidators who were seeking up to 200 boxes of information from them.

A month later, further allegations of contempt of court were made by the liquidators, which the respondents have repeatedly rejected.

The court heard then that two computers had been provided but one had no hard drive and the other no Masala documents.

Today, the matter came before Justice Paul Heath in the High Court at Auckland again.

Waterstone Insolvency lawyer Alden Ho sought an order for costs against Mr Singh, having failed to comply with court orders first made last year. He says Mr Singh had told liquidators he did not know a document he was signing made him a director of one of the companies, alleging he was deceived.

The liquidators were now satisfied he had purged himself of contempt but needed the costs created by the contempt met. A lawyer for Mr Singh, Gurbrinder Aulakh, says his client was never served with the proceedings, however, and orders consented to by a lawyer previously representing the group, Michael Tolhurst, were done so without his instructions.

Mr Aulakh says Mr Tolhurst, now retired, appears to have been misled as well.

Mr Singh had nothing to do with the company, and claims he never went to Mr Tolhurst's office or communicated with him when the orders were first made.

"The first time he came to know about it was when he read his name in the paper," he says. "It appears somebody has impersonated him."

Justice Heath says somebody instructed Mr Tolhurst, possibly an "imposter" but the issue needs to be investigated before the liquidator can sort its costs problem. He made an order requiring Mr Tolhurst and Mr Singh come to court to give evidence and establish whether Mr Singh was present at a meeting with the other respondents.

The hearing with respect to the other contempt costs continues.

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