Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Masala family group has assets frozen

Rajwinder Grewal was sentenced to four and a half months' home detention. Photo / Nick Reed
Rajwinder Grewal was sentenced to four and a half months' home detention. Photo / Nick Reed

A family group involved in running the Masala chain of Indian restaurants in Auckland have had all their assets frozen by the High Court - including 33 residential and commercial properties and money held in safe deposit boxes.

The orders were issued by Justice Rebecca Edwards in the High Court at Auckland on December 10, but her decision was released publicly only late today.

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The Commissioner of Police had applied for the orders without giving the family any warning because it was feared they might move to destroy, hide or alter property ownership or assets if they knew what the police were up to.

The value of the properties was put at more than $6.9 million. The safe deposit boxes are kept under accounts at Westpac and NZ Mint.

Late last year, family members were sentenced on immigration and worker-exploitation charges, after former employees revealed they had been paid as little as $2.64 an hour for working up to 11 hours a day.

Among those convicted was Joti Jain, 42, who admitted charges relating to the supply of false or misleading information and aiding the breach of visa conditions. She was sentenced to 11 months' home detention.

Rajwinder Grewal pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced to four and a half months' home detention.

Justice Edwards said those connected to the Masala chain had benefited from what she dubbed "significant criminal activity".

Documents show Jain, Grewal and two other relatives - Supinder Singh and Rupinder Chahil - were the key people involved in the operation of the restaurants.

Jain was the operations manager. She is alleged to have been heavily involved in buying a number of properties owned by those in the family group, who all had their own separate companies, but linked to Masala.

Court documents indicate monetary operations were not handled properly.

"It is alleged that weekly meetings were held at [Jain's house], or at the home address of Mr Chahil ... where restaurant managers would undertake a reconciliation of the till system, cashbook and the cash takings from the restaurant. Physical cash would be given to Ms Jain or Mr Chahil at this time."

The companies involved were Investments Ltd, JKK Holdings Ltd, JKK Trustees Ltd, Bluemoon Group Ltd, AKL Sunrise Company Ltd, DC Empires Ltd, CHK Investments Ltd and SRKK Group of Trustees Ltd.

- NZ Herald

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