Eatery’s $8m food fight
A RESTAURANT empire and celebrity hotspot famous for chauffeuring VIP diners in its Rolls Royce is now facing an $8 million lawsuit over a fleet of luxury cars.
Since opening at Parramatta in 2003, the Criniti’s chain of Italian eateries has expanded to eight outlets including the celebrity favourite on Woolloomooloo Wharf.
But liquidators claim the restaurant chain’s cash reserves and glamorous facade was boosted because almost $8 million was allegedly transferred from a failing luxury car company at a time it was insolvent.
The liquidators have launched two legal actions in the NSW Supreme Court against the restaurant chain, its owner Frank Criniti and his glamorous estranged wife Rima in an attempt to recoup that money.
Mr and Mrs Criniti have lodged defences and deny breaching any law.
According to documents tendered to the court, failed luxury car company Auswide Auto Wholesalers is at the centre of the dispute.
Mr Criniti is a former director of the company that specialised in buying high-end luxury cars using money borrowed from a finance company. The cars were either onsold or used by the restaurant.
According to the documents, the business hit a hurdle thanks to “tighter scrutiny on finance regula- tions” and was put into the hands of Sydney liquidating firm Cor Cordis in March 2013, allegedly owing $676,541 to the Australian Taxation Office.
But when the liquidators began poring over the business’ books, they allegedly discovered $7.9 million worth of payments and loans that had been made to Mr and Mrs Criniti and the restaurant between 2009 and 2013, court documents said.
The liquidators claim the payments were made illegally for a number of reasons, including that they were made at a time when the car business was already insolvent.
In his defence statement, Mr Criniti admitted to receiving the payments from the company. But he denied they were made illegally and said the e money was never the property of the luxury uxury car company.
In her defence statement, tatement, Mrs Criniti denied d she borrowed any money and said she “does not know and cannot admit” to the allegations gations because they related to her husband.
Mr Criniti had been een a director of the car company from 2009 until May 2012. The liquidators idators claim Mr Criniti “purported to o resign” but still remained as a behind hind the scenes director. Mr Criniti denies this.
The case is listed to be heard in the NSW Supreme Court rt tomorrow.
The famous Criniti's Rolls Royce that delivered VIPs to and from the restaurant and (right) Rima Criniti.