Masala Indian restaurant chain assets frozen in High Court order

A Masala restaurant in Birkenhead, part of an Auckland chain of Indian restaurants. The High Court has ordered a freeze ...

A Masala restaurant in Birkenhead, part of an Auckland chain of Indian restaurants. The High Court has ordered a freeze on the assets of the family group that own the chain.

The family group running Auckland's Masala Indian restaurant chain have had their assets frozen.

The High Court issued the restraining order after a request by the Police as part of its investigation into alleged tax evasion and breaches of immigration and employment laws in relation to restaurant staff.

The Commissioner of Police applied for the order in December, arguing that companies and individuals involved with the restaurants had benefited from "significant criminal activity". 

The frozen commercial and residential property was valued at more than $6.9m and included money held in safe deposit boxes.

In court papers, the Commissioner of Police alleges that Masala-related companied and associated individuals had been involved in substantial tax-related offending, money laundering, breaches of immigration laws and breaches of employment standards."

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The Police asked the court for an asset freeze without any warning because it feared the family running the Masala restaurants might move to destroy, hide or later property ownership or other assets.

Late last year, some of those family members were sentenced on immigration and worker exploitation charges after former staff revealed they had been paid as little as $2.64 an hour for working up to 11 hours a day.

Justice Edwards said those connected to the Masala chain had benefited from "significant criminal activity".

Documents related to the court order name Joti Jain and two relations, Supinder Singh and Rupinder Chahil as the key people running the restaurants.

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Jain, the operations manager,  was alleged to have been closely involved in buying a number of properties owned by members of the family group, each of whom had companies linked to Masala.

The asset freeze, made public on Friday, followed an Inland Revenue Department audit into Masala's affairs that started in 2012.

Jain was among those who last year admitted charges of supplying false or misleading information and aiding the breach of visa conditions. She was sentenced to 11 months home detention.

Rajwinder Grewal pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced to four and half months' home detention.

 - Stuff

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