Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Business Insider: Erceg brother's quest hits a brick wall

Bid to uncover liquor magnate's trust records is dealt another blow.
Ivan Erceg in his yacht-building days. Photo / Doug Sherring
Ivan Erceg in his yacht-building days. Photo / Doug Sherring

Former superyacht builder Ivan Erceg has once again been denied a look at who got what from two trusts set up by his older brother, the late liquor magnate Michael Erceg.

Ivan received no payout when the trusts were wound up in 2010, some 10 months after he was declared bankrupt.

Four years on - out of bankruptcy and armed with a Queen's Counsel - Ivan Valdimir Joseph Erceg marched to the High Court to get his hands on a swathe of trust records.

The documents in his sights included financial statements of Independent Liquor, the ready-to-drink beverage company founded by his brother and worth an estimated $620 million when he died in a helicopter crash a decade ago.

Opposing the bid were two trustees, lawyer Darryl Gregory and Michael's widow Lynette Erceg.

But it was not to be and the High Court's Justice Pamela Courtney said Ivan's main complaint seemed to be that he had not received any distribution from the trust assets.

The "weight of the evidence", she said, was that Michael had intended the trusts would be administered in confidence and he did not want his family members who might benefit from them to have information on this.

While Justice Courtney said she would have exercised her discretion and declined to order the disclosure Ivan sought, she did not need to as she found he did not have the standing to bring the action in the first place.

He took the matter to the Court of Appeal, which disagreed with Justice Courtney and believed the former boss of the now-sunk Sensation Yachts did have standing to bring the case.

But unfortunately for Ivan, the end result was the same.

"[Justice Courtney] fairly considered the factors in favour of and against disclosure before determining no disclosure was appropriate," said the appellate judges, who found their High Court counterpart did not err in her conclusion to refuse his bid.

Could the defeat now spell Ivan's retreat from this fractious family fight?

His mother and sister-in-law have already buried the hatchet and litigation between them has been called off, as Business Insider revealed last year.

Ivan could not be tracked down yesterday for comment.

Kendall Twigden with husband Mark Brewer. Photo / Mountain Scene
Kendall Twigden with husband Mark Brewer. Photo / Mountain Scene

Phoenix fallout

A woman who directed an Auckland company selling controversial currency trading software has been charged with tax offences - more than two years after the business failed owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to clients.

Kendall Christie Twigden, according to court documents, is accused of aiding and abetting Phoenix Forex to not deduct PAYE tax from salaries and wages.

That firm failed in October 2013, months after the Financial Markets Authority warned the public to steer clear of it. It owed clients $448,000, the IRD $1.44 million and trade creditors $124,000.

Some customers paid nearly $25,000 for Phoenix Forex trading software, but the FMA believed claims they could get annual returns of 60 per cent were unrealistic.

Twigden, 26, is married to discharged bankrupt Mark Brewer, the self-styled "sales legend" of Phoenix Forex who went on to sell software to bedroom currency traders in Britain.

She also had a six-month stint on the board of a firm that operated a failed Ponsonby Rd restaurant, retiring days before the company was put into liquidation owing millions of dollars.

Business Insider could not track down Twigden for comment this week.

She is due to reappear in the Auckland District Court in July.

Rupinder Singh Chahil. Photo / Nick Reed
Rupinder Singh Chahil. Photo / Nick Reed

Financial probe

Masala Indian restaurant chain founder Rupinder Singh Chahil will have to have his financial affairs probed in front of a High Court judge if he is aiming to get out of bankruptcy.

The 43-year-old has already endured more than three years of insolvency, after which one is normally free to return to commercial life.

However, the Official Assignee - which manages personal insolvencies - has opposed his automatic discharge from bankruptcy, meaning he will now face a High Court examination.

No date has been set for this, an OA spokeswoman said this week.

This is not Chahil's only battle with authorities.

He is also defending Immigration New Zealand charges alleging he supplied misleading information.

As well as this, he is the target of an investigation by Inland Revenue, which believes he was involved in evading the assessment and payment of tax by systematically stripping cash from the Masala chain

Chahil was not a target of police freezing orders, in which $34 million of assets with links to the Masala restaurants was restrained in December.

However, the restaurater is believed to live at one of the 33 frozen properties, a $1.7 million home in Howick.

In IRD's sights

The taxman is circling a company run by Hamish James Clarke, the elusive property developer whose firms failed last year owing more than $6 million.

Liquidators have struggled to track down Clarke, who last September was believed to be in Europe.

Valiant Homes had been working on 13 building sites in Auckland but went into liquidation and receivership last March.

The taxman is circling a company run by Hamish James Clarke, the elusive property developer.

It owed more than $4 million, with suppliers and other unsecured creditors claiming more than $1 million of that amount.

Other companies Clarke directed have also gone under and the Inland Revenue could tip another - VH Projects Six - into liquidation. The taxman's bid to do so will come before the High Court next Friday.

Business Insider will be betting against Clarke turning up for that event.

- NZ Herald

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