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ANZ bank has been accused of “racial bigotry” against Indian billionaire couple, Pankaj and Radhika Oswal.
During, what has been dubbed as Australia’s biggest trial, the Supreme Court of Victoria heard that the bank’s senior executives, including its former CEO Mike Smith, used racial remarks to describe Pankaj and Radhika Oswal.
The court heard that in an email exchange in 2009 between ANZ’s senior executive Chris Page and former CEO Mike Smith, Page used several “derogatory terms” to describe the couple, Fairfax Media reported.
In essence, we are dealing with two very unsavoury characters. We are dealing with Indians with no moral compass and an Indian woman who is every bit as devious as PO (Pankaj Oswal).
"In essence, we are dealing with two very unsavoury characters. We are dealing with Indians with no moral compass and an Indian woman who is every bit as devious as PO (Pankaj Oswal)" ," Mr. Page told Mr. Smith in an email.
The lawyer for the Oswal, Tony Bannon, said the use of the word Indian by Mr. Page in the email was "derogatory".
"It is no more or less than racial bigotry," Mr. Bannon said because it implied the couple "had character flaws that were essentially Indian".
"To think he could send it to the CEO of the bank without the fear of rebuke betrayed what was indeed the true culture of what was acceptable for the CEO of the bank," Mr. Bannon said.
Mr. Bannon told the court that instead of admonishing Mr. Page, the bank’s CEO’s response showed that he held similar views to Page.
"Chris Well done. I guess we just need to keep the pressure on. What a bunch,” Smith wrote in his response to Page.
The sensational allegations come just days after the couple launched a $1.5 billion lawsuit against ANZ over the forced sale of their Burrup Fertiliser plant in Western Australia.
The Oswals allege their stake was sold for $US560 million - far less than they say it was worth. They are seeking damages of between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion over the sale.
A spokesman for ANZ said, "Any form of racism is unacceptable. However the comments are irrelevant to the legal merits of the Oswals case."
Meanwhile, ANZ Bank has accused the Oswals of Mr Oswal of siphoning off $150 million of company funds for personal use.
Mr and Mrs Oswal have also disputed a $186 million tax bill issued by the Australian Taxation Office after they recently returned to Australia to fight their cases.