Acting Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Masala document stoush heats up

Joti Jain (left) and Rajwinder Grewal being sentenced in the Auckland District Court last year. Photo / Dean Purcell
Joti Jain (left) and Rajwinder Grewal being sentenced in the Auckland District Court last year. Photo / Dean Purcell

Three people linked to the Masala group of Indian restaurants are accused of not handing over or disclosing the whereabouts of up to 200 boxes of documents and are allegedly in contempt of court.

The trio's lawyer, however, say they have complied with the orders about the documents and a judge this morning asked for more evidence before making a decision on whether they are in contempt.

The liquidators of a number of firms in the Masala restaurant group, Damien Grant Steven Khov, applied last month for a contempt ruling after Rajwinder Grewal, Satwant Singh, Ravinder Kaur and Joti Jain allegedly failed to comply with court orders requiring them to provide company documents.

The possible penalties for contempt of court include jail time. The liquidators were on the hunt for between 180 and 200 boxes of documents returned by the IRD, which is probing the group.

However, the situation, a judge said last month, was complicated by the police seizing a "substantial number of company records" when they executed search warrants in December on the homes of people linked to the restaurants.

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Grewal, Singh, Kaur and Jain were last month given 10 workings days to provide these boxes of company records or details of where they are believed to be.

A hearing was held this morning before Justice Matthew Palmer to check on progress, where the liquidators' lawyer, Alden Ho, said Grewal, Kaur and Jain had not complied with the orders.

Grewal had provided a computer that lacked a hard drive and hadn't explained why or when it had been removed, Ho alleged.

He also did not provide details of electronic documents in his control, or the use of an email address that liquidators believe are connected with the companies, the lawyer told the court.

Jain had not identified the person who uplifted documents from her Remuera home or when that happened, Ho alleged.

Jain also had told the liquidators that an email address that Ho alleged was a business account was for her personal use.

Ho also claimed that Kaur had not diclosed information about electronic documents.

They don't accept they are in default.
Andrew Gilchrist, the lawyer acting for Jain, Kaur and Grewal

It was "quite clear" that Grewal, Jain and Kaur, were in contempt of the court orders, he said.

The situation with Singh was different and Ho said the man had recently told the liquidators he had been "deceived" into being appointed to being a director of these companies.

Singh had said he had no involvement in the Masala group of companies and the liquidators were satisfied he had no documents in his possession or his control, Ho said.

Andrew Gilchrist, the lawyer acting for Jain, Kaur and Grewal, said the trio filed affidavits within the ten day period, had complied with the judge's directions and that it was "totally inappropriate" for the liquidators to push for a contempt order this morning.

"They don't accept they are in default," Gilchrist said.

In an separate case the police in December froze $34 million of assets belonging to people and companies associated with the Masala group of restaurants. It was revealed last month that the IRD and other authorities allege firms and individuals with links to the Indian food chain were involved in "systemic" tax evasion and breached employment and immigration laws.

- NZ Herald

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