Acting Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Masala owners fight police property freeze

Joti Jain (L) and Rajwinder Grewal being sentenced in the Auckland District Court last year over immigration charges and exploitation of stuff working at Masala restaurants. Photo / Dean Purcell
Joti Jain (L) and Rajwinder Grewal being sentenced in the Auckland District Court last year over immigration charges and exploitation of stuff working at Masala restaurants. Photo / Dean Purcell

A company and a woman whose six properties are part of the $34 million asset freeze linked to Auckland's Masala restaurant chain are fighting to thaw the restraining orders over them.

However, 27 other properties - some worth nearly $3 million - will stay under ice after the police received no opposition to the freeze staying in place.

This includes the houses where Masala founder Rupinder Chahil and the restaurants' co-controller Joti Jain are believed to live.

Thirty-three properties were frozen by the High Court in December on the back of allegations that companies and people linked to the restaurant chain committed "systematic" tax evasion, breached immigration laws and violated employment standards.

It is believed to be the biggest cache of property ever restrained by the New Zealand police and covers houses in the upmarket suburb of Remuera, semi-rural sections south of Auckland and commercial buildings.

The case came back for a brief hearing before the High Court's Justice John Fogarty this morning, where lawyer Kate Eastwood said the police had received no opposition to the freeze over 27 of the properties.

Justice Fogarty granted the application to keep them frozen.

However, one of the companies affected by the freeze, Bluemoon Group, is opposing the orders over five properties worth about $3.9 million.

These properties, according to documents, are in the Auckland suburbs of Birkenhead, Bucklands Beach, Green Bay, Orakei and one is in Whangarei.

One of the women named in the freezing action, Divya Preet Kaur, is also opposing the the freezing orders over a $700,000 property she owns in the Auckland suburb of Royal Oak.

Justice Fogarty this morning also made an order that will allow 28 properties (all but those owned by Bluemoon Group) to be sold if their mortgages fall into more than two months of arrears.

It emerged in February that Inland Revenue alleges 17 companies that owned Masala restaurants under-reported earnings to evade paying more than $7.4 million of tax. IRD has identified Chahil, Jain, Masala manager Rajwinder Grewal and company director Supinder Singh as principal persons of interest in its probe.

"I believe that the parties and companies involved in the financial operations of the Masala chain of restaurants, including Mr Chahil, Ms Jain, Mr Grewal and a number of relatives of those parties, have been involved in evading the assessment and payment of tax by systematically stripping cash from the restaurants and neither declaring cash sales in GST returns, nor returning cash income to [IRD]," Inland Revenue investigator Elena Bryleva said in an affidavit.

In that affidavit, Bryleva alleged Singh also evaded tax and personally owes IRD almost $750,000.

Justice Rebecca Edwards, in a ruling made public in February, said this and other evidence established reasonable grounds to believe that Chahil, Jain, Grewal, Singh and the Masala group had been involved in significant criminal activity.

- NZ Herald

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