Whisky maker’s in­sol­vent trad­ing

The Gazette (Derwent Valley) - - NEWS - PA­TRICK BILLINGS

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 a whisky bar­rel in­vest­ment scheme that 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 se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crime unit.

The re­port found Nant-re­lated par­ties also owed the dis­tillery com­pany more than $4 mil­lion. This in­cluded $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.

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