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Pankaj Oswal spent $150 million in company money, court told

Radhika and Pankaj Oswal Source: News Corp Australia

The Victorian Supreme Court heard the amounts uncovered by Yara included $23 million paid to the Oswals' Burrup Trust and payments for luxury cars and boats.

Indian businessman Pankaj Oswal using millions of dollars from company funds for personal use was just the tip of the iceberg, a court has heard.

The Supreme Court of Victoria has heard Pankaj Oswal misappropriated more than $150 million from Burrup Fertilisers over three years, including millions spent on the vegetarian restaurant chain of his wife Radhika and on Perth homes including the unfinished "Taj Mahal on the Swan" mansion.

Yara Australia barrister John Sheahan QC said that Mr. Oswal had received $22 million from Burrup Fertilisers for his personal expenses or those of related Oswal parties. He said the amount was offset by the $22 million “guarantee fee”.

When the co-shareholder in the Oswals' Australian fertiliser business became concerned about Mr Oswal receiving $22 million for no proper reason, he agreed to repay it in instalments, a trial heard.

The Victorian Supreme Court heard the amounts uncovered by Yara included $23 million paid to the Oswals' Burrup Trust and payments for luxury cars and boats.

"Yara is just uncovering the tip of the iceberg as it were," Mr Sheahan told the court on Thursday.

It has heard the misappropriation escalated dramatically in the year before the ANZ appointed receivers in December 2010, after the bank gave the Oswals more time to sell their Burrup Holdings shares.

Yara's lawyers asked the corporate watchdog in January 2011 to investigate Mr Oswal's conduct, saying it had been concerned for some time about issues such as an unusually high level of expenses and dividends being paid to the Oswals but not Yara.

Mr Sheahan said Yara was starting to understand that significant payments had been made to Oswal entities apparently unconnected with the fertiliser business.

Yara had not been told about the Oswals' December 2009 deal with the ANZ to sell shares in parent company Burrup Holdings, nor that Mr Oswal had allegedly forged security documents.

That would have "added fuel to the fire" of Yara's concerns and sparked an investigation.

"It would have been very difficult for Mr Oswal in the period which followed to accelerate his campaign of misappropriating assets of the company," Mr Sheahan said.

He said the Oswals also repeatedly tried to convert Burrup Holdings from a public to a private company, which would have removed the need for investigations into related-party transactions.

The court has heard Mr Oswal denied misappropriating company funds and now argued the payments were partly in restitution of debts connected with the construction of the Burrup ammonia plant in Western Australia.

Source AAP
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