Nant founder under fire
Liquidators claim evidence of insolvent trading
DIRECTORS of a failed Tasmanian whisky company may have traded insolvent, breached their duties and committed other offences, liquidators say.
Nant Distillery at Bothwell, later named Naw Distillery, collapsed owing an estimated $4.9 million to creditors.
It was the brainchild of Queensland bankrupt Keith Batt and one of several businesses that formed his Nant group of companies.
The distillery is now run by Australian Whisky Holdings (AWH), which is completely separate from Nant, but continues to use the brand name.
In a startling report liquidator Deloitte said it found evidence suggesting the former distillery company had been trading insolvent for years.
“Investigations regarding the company’s affairs revealed [it] may have been insolvent from as early as 30 June 2014,” Deloitte’s Richard Hughes said.
“Our investigations indicate that the Director [Margaret Batt nee Letizia] and Former Director [Keith Batt] may have contravened certain provisions of the Act and committed offences which include but are not limited to insolvent trading, breaches of directors duties.
“Notwithstanding, the Director and Former Director may have defences.”
Mr Hughes also said further investigations were needed to draw “definitive conclusions” and ultimately “insolvency would need to be determined ... [by] a court”
Attempts to contact the Batts were unsuccessful.
Nant has come under sustained scrutiny for its whisky barrel investment scheme, which left investors out of pocket.
Investors forked out thousands of dollars for the barrels but an AWH audit this year alleged hundreds of barrels were never filled.
The liquidator’s report reveals Nant Barrel Holdings, which managed the investment scheme, transferred at least $4.9 million in funds to Nant Distillery. It was never paid back, with Nant Barrel Holdings listed as a relatedparty creditor to the distillery business.
The investment scheme is now under investigation for fraud by Tasmania Police’s se- rious and unit.
The report found Nant related parties also owed the distillery company more than $4 million. This includes $1.15 million owed by Mr Batt and more than $250,000 owed by Mrs Batt.
The liquidator’s report highlighted possible “uncommercial transactions” and “unreasonable director related transactions” as potential targets for recovery actions.
The report stated there were lots of “unanswered questions, due to the lack of records” relating to the company’s demise but pointed to year on year losses and the regular transfer of funds between related Nant entities.
The liquidator expressed frustration at “the resistance and noncooperation of some parties” which meant investi- gations were “only preliminary and limited”.
For instance Mr Hughes had not received documents at the time of the report from AWH, which bought the distillery’s assets. He said there were several parties involved in operating Nant Distillery and its sale before liquidators were appointed.
“We have not received clear answers to our queries nor have we received any agreements or contracts pertaining to same,” he said.
“This information is a critical part of investigations and we intend to continue to make inquiries to ascertain the role each party played and whether or not they contributed to the demise of the company.”
Deloitte will seek funding, possibly from a litigation funder, to have various parties examined in court.