Ingredients of Masala's $34m restraining order opposed
Orders against about $4.6 million worth of property frozen as part of a $34 million asset restraining order for “alleged significant criminal activity” linked to the Masala Indian restaurant chain are being opposed.
In February, it was revealed the NZ Police had seized 33 properties associated with the “well-known” chain, as well as safe deposit boxes held at Westpac and NZ Mint, in what is believed to be the country’s single-biggest asset restraint order.
The “without notice” orders had been granted by Justice Rebecca Edwards in December following a joint investigation by Immigration NZ, the labour inspectorate, Inland Revenue and police, which began as early as 2012.
It is alleged the 12 respondents unlawfully benefited from significant criminal activity that arose from the relationship between all the entities and the operation of the Masala restaurants.
This includes substantial tax offending worth more than $7.4 million, money laundering, breaches of immigration laws and breaches of employment standards.
Joti Jain, said to be the chain’s operations manager, Rajwinder Grewal, the brother-in-law of the man who first set up the chain, Mr Grewal’s partner, Divyapreet Kaur, and Supinder Singh are named as respondents, as well as various entities.
The Police in February sought on-notice restraining orders for those granted without notice but, following a heated hearing in the High Court at Auckland, the sale of a $790,000 property was blocked at the last minute.
Today, the matter was brought before Justice John Fogarty in the High Court at Auckland, where it emerged one entity, Bluemoon Group, directed by Harpreet Singh, is opposing the restraining orders regarding the five properties it owns, worth about $3.9 million.
Ms Kaur, who says she cannot afford a lawyer and was therefore representing herself, also indicated she will now be opposing the orders for the $700,000 property she owns – believed to be the home of herself and Mr Grewal.
She and the Bluemoon Group have until May 6 to file evidence in opposition, with the police lawyer, Kate Eastwood, saying what has been filed so far is “brief” and does not address all the properties.
A hearing will then be set for the matter.
On-notice restraining orders for the other 27 properties were granted by Justice Fogarty today.
Powers to sell
In February, Ms Eastwood had also sought sale orders that would empower the Official Assignee to sell any restrained mortgaged real estate that falls into arrears for two months.
This application was filed in December last year, with two of the properties already in such a situation at that stage.
Those were again sought today, after opposition had been indicated in February, but only Bluemoon Group continued to oppose the order today.
Ms Kaur, who says her mortgage is being paid by her parents in India, consented to the order, meaning 28 properties can be sold if they fall into arrears.
A further order allowing the sale of properties by consent was also sought today, which does not allow the commissioner to sell any of the properties without the knowledge of the owners.
None of the parties opposed those orders.
The opposition to the restraining orders is due to be heard again in June.
NBR has already reported on a group of 10 Masala entities in liquidation owing close to $2 million, as well as a $600,000 lawsuit brought against Mr Grewal and Ms Jain for breaches of directors’ duties.
Last month, people linked to Masala were accused of contempt of court for filing affidavits said to be “simply not true.”