Sisters sue dad to reclaim $20k pocket money

By Sam Hurley -
Ellisha Basher sought to recover $11,154.98 that her grandparents had paid her in wages and gifts as a young child while working weekends and school holidays. File photo / Hawkes Bay Today
Ellisha Basher sought to recover $11,154.98 that her grandparents had paid her in wages and gifts as a young child while working weekends and school holidays. File photo / Hawkes Bay Today

Two Napier teenagers who successfully sued their father for $20,000 worth of pocket money fear he will go back to court over the money.

Ellisha, 19, and Amanda Basher, 15, sought to recover the sums of $11,154.98 and $9226.08 respectively that their grandparents had paid them in wages and gifts as young children while working weekends and school holidays for the grandparents' joinery business.

The girls were wary of talking further about the case out of concern that their father, Wayne Basher, would appeal against the court decision.

"We don't want to say anything wrong so he can reopen the case in the High Court with new information,'' said Ellisha. "He's already put us through enough emotionally.''

Mr Basher, who has not spoken to his daughters for more than five years, also worked for the grandparents' business.

He and wife, Karleen, had created bank accounts in the girls' names for the money they had earned.

After Karleen died of breast cancer in 2005, family relations deteriorated. Ultimately, custody of the girls was awarded to the grandparents.

In 2008, Ellisha and Amanda discovered that their bank accounts had been closed and the funds retained by their father. Mr Basher was queried regarding the disappearance of the money at the time and responded to them via an email: "The money in the savings account WILL be returned upon Ellisha turning 25, not BEFORE!!''

He said the account had been set up for the girls to access when they "were old enough to act more mature and know how to handle money''.

He then removed the money, knowing at the time Ellisha was about to turn 15, when she would have legal access to it, before placing it in a separate account that would be inaccessible to the girls until they turned 25.

The grandparents had, however, kept careful business and banking records, making it relatively easy to identify the sum that each of the girls received from them.

A court judgment released on June 6 said Mr Basher changed his position on the matter after he claimed he was under no obligation to account to his daughters for the money in the accounts.

He then said he had used the money for the girls' benefit. However at the District Court hearing on June 4, he again modified his stance by saying he would be happy to pay each of his daughters $1500 when they were 20 years old and "more mature''.

The court ruled that there was no evidence to suggest Mr Basher or anyone else had the right to use the funds that had been paid to the girls.

"The evidence is overwhelming that the defendant [Wayne Basher] has knowingly retained wages and gifts paid to the plaintiffs [Ellisha and Amanda],'' said the court. "Put simply, it is not his money and now the time has come for him to return it to his rightful owners.''

Mr Basher appealed to the High Court, arguing the girls had to show a breach of trust relationship and an improper gain or unjust enrichment derived from the breach.

He further argued that he had not benefited from the funds, saying "the money had been spent on the care and maintenance of the children''. He said holidays to Australia for the children and lavish gifts should be excluded.

Justice Rodney Hansen ruled Mr Basher was in breach of trust in failing to account to his daughters for the money. The judgment was upheld and the appeal dismissed, while Mr Basher was ordered to repay the girls and costs against him.

Mr Basher and his wife Linda yesterday declined to comment when asked about the court ruling.

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