A 24-acre Hanwood landholding purchased by a now-liquidated Griffith wine company was sold at auction in July 2023, Region’s ongoing investigation has revealed.
Meanwhile, a new Supreme Court case involving this company commenced this week.
Griffith’s Aaron Salvestrin, 29, launched winery Sans Pareil Estate in 2018. Over the next four years, he registered another eight companies associated with the winery – all of which went into liquidation in October 2022.
The companies are alleged to owe the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) more than $32 million.
The liquidator, insolvency firm Chifley Advisory, has launched Supreme Court proceedings to recover money from Mr Salvestrin. This case has been delayed several times, primarily due to errors by the liquidator’s lawyers.
On Tuesday (24 October), the liquidator commenced a new Supreme Court case against one of Mr Salvestrin’s nine companies – Salvestrin Enterprises Pty Ltd.
This court case is an application by the liquidator to be appointed a receiver to settle trust properties.
A trust property is held by a trustee (such as an agent) for the benefit of another person or company. If a liquidator is unable to sell assets held within trusts, it may apply to the court to become a receiver, giving it the power to manage trust assets.
According to the liquidator’s report to creditors published in January 2023, two properties were owned by Salvestrin Enterprises Pty Ltd – a residential dwelling on Brooks Street in Griffith and a commercial landholding with a shed on it at Research Station Road in Hanwood.
The January report stated the Hanwood property was subject to a mortgage by 79-year-old Griffith solicitor Roger Vardanega, who was then owed $500,000 by Salvestrin Enterprises Pty Ltd.
Mr Vardanega told Region he had been a friend of the Salvestrin family for many years and decided to help them out because the previous lender was going to charge Aaron more than $50,000 upfront for a $500,000 loan.
“I was happy to do so, reduce the expenses by half and the loan, provided that interest would be paid on repayment of the principal,” he said.
“Needless to say, I was unhappy and upset when the companies went into liquidation and had no idea of the companies’ financial standing.”
Region understands the 24-acre Hanwood property was originally bought by the winery with the intention of turning it into a cellar door.
After the company’s liquidation, the property was sold at a public auction for $748,000 on 28 July 2023.
“I got my money back, the $500,000 plus the interest and the rest was sent to the liquidator,” Mr Vardanega said.
The new Supreme Court case against Salvestrin Enterprises Pty Ltd had a hearing on Tuesday (24 October).
“Your honour, I need to start with a mea culpa [acknowledgment of my mistake],” liquidator lawyer Mr Martin told the court.
“I hadn’t appreciated that [Mr Salvestrin] had not been provided a copy of the materials and had not been joined as a defendant,
“My application is that the hearing today will be vacated [postponed] so that the mea culpa might be cured.”
Justice Black agreed to postpone the matter so that Mr Salvestrin could respond to any material presented by the liquidator.
Mr Salvestrin did not attend the Tuesday hearing and was not represented by a lawyer.
Mr Martin said he received an email from Mr Salvestrin indicating the Griffith man would not support the appointment of the current liquidator as the receiver.
The matter is now listed for directions on Monday, 30 October, a short hearing in which the judge decides on the next steps for the case.
The other Supreme Court case against the winery has also been delayed due to mistakes by the liquidator’s lawyer – first when the lawyer didn’t show up to a hearing due to a “diary administrative error” and then because lawyers hadn’t prepared evidence on time.
All Supreme Court matters regarding Mr Salvestrin have been in the civil jurisdiction, meaning they relate to property or money and are not criminal matters.
In court documents, the ATO alleged the winery created false financial statements to receive GST refunds to which they were not entitled.
Mr Salvestrin has not been charged with any crimes in relation to the matter.
Original Article published by Oliver Jacques on Region Riverina.