A long-standing Bay of Plenty business which received publicity after appearing in court has gone into liquidation and receivers have also been appointed. Sandra Conchie reports on the company's background and talks to the liquidator and the receivers about the closure – and discovers the company is estimated to owe a bank nearly $480,000.
A company fined $250,000 for underpaying a migrant worker has gone into liquidation and has also been placed into receivership.
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Receivers closed the doors of Spice Traders in Katikati this month.
Last month Sai Bliss Limited - trading as T/A Spice Traders in Katikati - and Bhupinder Bhardwaj, one of the company's former directors, were sentenced in the Waihi District Court after admitting providing false information to Immigration New Zealand and exploitation charges under the Immigration Act for failing to observe the Minimum Wage and Holidays Act.
Bhardwaj was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and Sai Bliss Ltd fined $250,000.
Despite agreeing to pay $18 an hour stated in the employee's employment agreement, the worker was paid just $250 a week, and in some weeks was paid less than $3 an hour.
An Immigration NZ investigation found the employee was underpaid for almost 18 months and was owed more than $73,000 in minimum wages and holiday pay arrears.
A public notice in the Bay of Plenty Times stated Thomas Rodewald and Kenneth Brown were jointly appointed receivers and managers on October 2.
Sai Bliss Ltd had been trading as T/A Spice Traders on Main Rd, Katikati, for almost 10 years.
Rodewald said Spice Traders closed on October 2.
Companies Office records show Anu Bhardwaj is listed as the current sole director of the family-owned business and she was appointed a director on November 25, 2008.
Bhupinder Bhardwaj, who was appointed as the second company director on November 30, 2017, but ceased as a director on October 1.
Rodewald said there were no customers in the store when he visited to close the doors of Spice Traders but some customers did turn up later during his visit.
"We're still working to establish how much stock is held by the company and its financial position and need to file a report with the Companies Office in two months," he said
Liquidator Imran Kamal said Sai Bliss Ltd was placed into liquidation by the shareholders because the company was "insolvent".
"It is too early to discuss how much is owed to creditors and how many there are. We're still gathering information about the company's financial affairs and how much it owes creditors.
Kamal said he filed the first liquidator's report with Companies Office on October 8 and
and a copy would be sent to all known creditors.
In his report, Kamal states that Sai Bliss' director had not yet completed a full statement of the company's financial affairs and the amount owed to Inland Revenue and unsecured creditors and the value of the company's assets were unknown.
It was estimated secured creditors the Bank of New Zealand was owed $479,468 and Flexirent Capital (NZ) Ltd about $2888, the report revealed.
Kamal said negotiations were under way to put a proposal to the bank to take the company out of receivership but he declined to discuss the exact details.
Bhupinder Bhardwaj resigned as a company director after seeking legal advice, he said.
The Bay of Plenty Times approached Bhupinder Bhardwaj but he declined to comment, and Anu Bhardwaj said it was "too early" to comment.
A nearby business manager, who asked not to be named, was "saddened" to hear of the closure.
"It's not good for us or our clients as we used to buy milk and other items at Spice Traders which took about a minute, but now we have to drive to the shops in town which takes about 10 minutes or so," the manager said.
Katikati ward councillor Peter McKay learned of the closure from the Bay of Plenty Times.
"It's always sad when any business has to close its doors or is forced to do so. Katikati is such a vibrant community and town, and Spice Traders has supported not only the Indian
community but the wider community for a number of years," he said.