Whangarei house seized to pay Masala debt

By Mike Dinsdale

A property in Whangarei valued at $1.12 million will be sold to pay the debt to the Crown from the former chain of Indian restaurants, Masala, for tax evasion, money-laundering and immigration offences.

In the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday, Justice Rebecca Edwards approved a civil settlement with police where Masala will sell $8m worth of properties in Auckland, Northland and Waikato, which police successfully restrained in December.

The Northland property is at 1 Apirana Ave, Whangarei, where Masala announced it planned to open a restaurant in August 2015.

The restaurant didn't open because the company became involved in legal action for tax evasion, money-laundering and immigration offences shortly afterwards.

The historic villa on 1300sq m on the corner of Apirana Ave and Bank St had a registered valuation in September 2015 of $1,120,000.

Detective Sergeant Chris Allan, from the Northern Asset Recovery Unit, said the court settlement ordered the properties to be sold.

"While a number have been sold, 1 Apirana Ave, Whangarei has not, nor has marketing commenced," Allan said.

In total, $34m worth of property was seized after an investigation into tax evasion, subsequent money-laundering and immigration-related offending. The Whangarei property was seized last year.

"We are delighted with the outcome and the message it sends to the wider community," Allan said of the seizures.

Immigration NZ and the Labour Department also welcomed the decision.

Those who breach employment standards or exploit their workers can expect to face the combined and full effort of law enforcement, Labour Inspectorate general manager George Mason said.

"We will use every means at our disposal to ensure people do not profit from the exploitation of others," Mason said.

In 2015, some of those involved in the Masala chain were found guilty of widespread and systemic tax evasion and immigration-related offending.

Immigrant workers were often paid only $3 an hour, and Masala bosses were also found guilty of underpaying and exploiting them.

- NZ Herald

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