19 December 2023

Liquidator recovers $2 million from collapsed Griffith winery, mostly from McLaren supercar sale

| Oliver Jacques
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supercar and two headshots

A McLaren P1 sold as part of the liquidation of Sans Pareil Estate, owned by Aaron Salvestrin (inset, right) had a door sill signed by F1 star Daniel Ricciardo (inset, left). Photos: Supplied.

The liquidator of a collapsed Griffith winery has recovered just over $2 million but also incurred just under $1.5 million worth of expenses in the 12 months since it was appointed the company’s external administrator, according to the annual returns it filed with the federal business regulator in December 2023.

Sans Pareil Estate, owned by Hanwood’s Aaron Salvestrin, went into liquidation in October 2022. The company allegedly owes $32 million to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and hundreds of thousands of dollars to regional small businesses.

The liquidator, Gavin Moss of insolvency firm Chifley Advisory, has reported he received payments totalling $2.01 million between October 2022 and October 2023.

READ ALSO Search warrant was issued to seize assets from Griffith winery alleged to owe ATO $32 million

Almost three-quarters of this amount comes from the sale of a single asset – a McLaren P1 supercar sold for $1.475 million by professional auctioneers Hymans in January 2023.

Chifley Advisory obtained most of the remaining half a million dollars from the sale of wine and other cars.

The total cost of the liquidation in its first 12 months was just under $1.5 million – with the major expenses being salaries for the liquidator and his staff ($445,159), liquidator expenses ($163,641), legal fees ($295,021), commissions paid for asset sales ($197,766), agents’ valuers’ fees ($57,257), professional fees ($93,500) and storage costs ($33,403).

Region understands that there are only a few remaining winery assets still to be sold. These include the company’s logos, labels and trademarks, which were advertised for sale for offers over $50,000 in October 2023.

Mr Moss provided this information in his annual administration return form, which by law had to be filed with the Federal Government’s Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) within three months of the first anniversary of the liquidation.

In this report, he estimated that the liquidation would not be completed until October 2026.

The amount recovered so far represents only a tiny fraction of the total amount San Pareil Estate is alleged to owe the ATO and other creditors.

The company allegedly received GST refund payments of $17,161,679 more than it ought to have received.

man holding grapes next to a wine bottle

Aaron Salvestrin next to a sauvignon blanc bottle labelled 100 Million %.

In court documents, it was claimed Sans Pareil Estate lodged fake business activity statements (BAS) to the ATO and made “inflated and fictitious claims for GST refunds in respect of GST payments” that it never made between July 2020 and September 2022.

A BAS is a form registered businesses must submit to the ATO reporting on their tax obligations. When lodging a BAS, companies can claim a refund on GST for goods purchased for export because the 10 per cent tax applies only to items consumed within Australia.

The ATO has also charged the winery interest and a penalty payment – the total debt to the Federal Government tax collectors is reported to exceed $32 million.

The liquidator initiated civil Supreme Court proceedings against Mr Salvestrin for allegedly making what it called “unreasonable director-related transactions”.

READ ALSO Griffith winery Supreme Court case postponed to 2024 as $4 million problem persists

Some of these transactions were for services, such as $31,895 spent on luxury private flight company Navair jet services. It would be unlikely that such expenses would be able to be recovered by a liquidator.

Credit card company American Express has also been subpoenaed to provide information on more than $4 million worth of transactions. The information was due to be received by the Supreme Court in mid-December, with the next hearing on the matter scheduled for February 2024.

This court case has been in the civil jurisdiction, meaning it relates to property or money and is not a criminal matter.

Mr Salvestrin has not been charged with any crimes over this matter.

Original Article published by Oliver Jacques on Region Riverina.

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