Lavish dinner debts hard to swallow
Bollywood legend Shahrukh Khan had Prime Minister John Key to dinner and a clutch of National Party MPs got free tickets to his Auckland show last year, but now some of the city's Indian businesses are demanding to know where the money has gone.
Khan, who is personally worth US$600 million ($705 million) and co-owns the Kolkata Knight Riders IPL cricket team, gave a lavish show at Auckland's Vector on October 4, called Temptation Reloaded, with ticket prices ranging from $199 to $650.
Around 7500 people attended.
He was paid before he performed, but New Zealand Indians who put up money have been left out of pocket and gone to the High Court to wind up the company behind it all, Areddy Private Ltd.
The money's fate is now the dominant discussion on Indian talkback radio.
Court appointed liquidator Digby Noyce told Fairfax Media that he has established preliminary confirmed debts to New Zealand companies of $300,000.
Other companies linked to the event claim the missing money will exceed $500,000.
The night before Khan's show, Key and other cabinet ministers and National Party MPs attended a dinner with the super-star, winning massive photo publicity in India.
For creditor Atul Lal of Eftpos Systems Ltd that dinner, which he attended, is now a bit hard to swallow.
"We had all the ministers in there," he said.
"The dinner we had the day before the event we had John Key ... there as well.
Justice Minister Judith Collins, who has been on political strife over a dinner she attended in China, confirms she also attended the Auckland dinner with Khan.
"The Minister attended an event on 3 October 2013 at the Pullman in Auckland in her capacity as Minister for Ethnic Affairs," Collin's office said. "Mr Khan and many members of the Indian community were also present at the event."
National MPs Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman declared they accepted free double tickets to the show.
Khan's tour has already caused controversy in Australia, where state owned Destination NSW funded the Sydney show with A$1m. Indian community groups objected to a mega-star getting money when they could not.
The New Zealand end was added on with Areddy Private Ltd created in March last year with a solitary shareholder, Agastya Pesara, a New Zealander, of Auckland.
With none of the bills paid, Atul Lal went to court to send Areddy into liquidation.
He will not say how much he is owed.
"We are owed a substantial amount, that is all I can say," he said, saying the issue was covered by a confidentiality clause.
"It is a bit up in the air, and we are trying to get to the bottom of it. We were completely blindfolded over what happened behind the scene."
Noyce said they had located Pesara in Australia.
While he had established debts of $300,000, he said there was still a lot of work to do.
"(Pesara) is currently overseas and he has not cooperated yet... It is quite difficult due to lack of records," he said.
"There was certainly a significant amount of cash that flowed through the event. We need to see where it went and if it is recoverable....
"A lot of people have been hurt by this financially and what I am very conscious of is not prejudicing those investigations.... What I would like is anybody with information over this to come forward and assist us with the investigation."
The Indian Newslink reports that in his now closed down Facebook page Pesara said the Auckland economy was a beneficiary of the concert and that those involved with its organisation would have made a handsome profit.
Newslink says Greenwood Corner Travel (1987) Ltd provided $400,000 in air tickets for travel for Khan and has over 100 strong cast. That company is now in liquidation and its managing director Nimesh Amin returned to India.
A South Auckland man, Ghouse Majeed, told Newslink he lent $100,000 for the show but had not been repaid.
"He said that he would pay me $100,000 immediately before or after the programme," he said.
He too says he has gone to court to get the money.
Noyce said he expected to file a full report on the liquidation next week.
Attempts to reach Pesara through his Linkden account, which says he lives in Perth, have been unsuccessful.