28 May 2024

Griffith winery's collapse subject of new Supreme Court hearing after Collina house sale

| Oliver Jacques
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salvestrin house for sale with headshot insert

The Collina house was described as “stunning” and “remarkable”. Inset: Aaron Salvestrin. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A five-bedroom house deemed an asset of collapsed Griffith winery Sans Pareil Estate was sold for $767,500, some $22,500 less than the advertised price.

The sale funds will be added to the winery’s liquidation proceeds, after the NSW Supreme Court approved the sale process and liquidator fees on Monday (27 May).

Sans Pareil Estate went into liquidation in October 2022. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) claims the winery owes it $32 million, after making “fraudulent” claims for GST refunds.

READ MORE Griffith business ‘fraudulently’ claimed to have bought $200 million worth of wine to get GST refunds, ATO alleges

As Region exclusively reported, the Supreme Court ordered winery owner Aaron Salvestrin, 29, to pay back creditors $8.4 million, ruling he made several “unreasonable director-related transactions”.

While this matter concluded in March, a new Supreme Court hearing on Salvestrin Enterprises Pty Ltd, one of nine companies registered under the Sans Pareil umbrella, took place on Monday.

In February 2022, a residential property at 39 Brooks Street in the Griffith suburb of Collina was bought by Salvestrin Enterprises for $711,000. The house was located next door to where Mr Salvestrin lived at the time.

The liquidator, Gavin Moss of insolvency firm Chifley Advisory, sought to sell the 39 Brooks Street residence to recover funds to repay creditors. However, he had been unable to do so because the house was held within a trust.

McLaren P1 supercar with doors open

A McLaren P1 supercar was sold for $1.47 million as part of the liquidation of the Griffith winery. Photo: Road and Track.

Mr Moss took the matter to the NSW Supreme Court, which in November 2023 ruled in his favour – making him the receiver for Salvestrin Enterprises Pty Ltd. This gave him the power to manage and sell the Collina house.

This property was eventually sold on 29 February this year by real estate agent LJ Hooker, who had advertised it for $790,000. It had been rented out to unrelated tenants.

“The evidence demonstrates that Sans Pareil Estate provided the funds to Salvestrin Enterprises for the purchase of the property in 2022,” Supreme Court Judge Anthony McGrath ruled.

The net property sale proceeds will therefore be added to other funds that have been recovered by the liquidator through the sale of winery assets.

As at December 2023, around $2 million in funds had been recovered by Chifley Advisory, while the total cost of the liquidation had been around $1.5 million.

Most of the funds recovered had come from the sale of a single asset – an imported McLaren P1 supercar signed by Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo, which was sold by liquidators for $1.47 million in January 2023.

The recently sold 275 sqm house at 39 Brooks Street has increased in value by 65 per cent since 2015, when it was bought for $465,000.

In a written submission to court, Mr Moss’s lawyer sought an increase in the liquidator remuneration rates that were originally set in 2022.

“I am prepared to allow the slightly increased rates now in light of the fact that those hourly rates were those current as at July 2022 … I consider that it is fair and reasonable to allow the increase in rates, which are less than the prevailing rate of inflation over the same period,” Judge McGrath ruled.

He approved Chifley Advisory being paid $48,059.00 for its work associated with the sale of the Brooks Street property, which he said was complex.

living and dining area

The living and dining area of the Collina house. Photo: LJ Hooker/Domain.

Mr Salvestrin did not attend Monday’s hearing. He had previously told the liquidator that he was admitted into a mental health ward in February 2024.

The Griffith winemaker was just 23 years old when he launched winery Sans Pareil, a French term meaning “without equal”.

Destination NSW, the State Government’s lead tourism agency, praised his “rule-breaking wine” and “untraditional methods” just months before his company went into liquidation.

According to court documents, Sans Pareil allegedly claimed to have bought more than $200 million worth of wine that it didn’t actually purchase so it could “fraudulently” claim $17 million in GST refunds.

READ ALSO Supreme Court orders Griffith winemaker to pay $8.4 million in final judgement

Overall, the winery is alleged to owe the ATO more than $32 million, including penalties and interest charges. Several small businesses are also allegedly owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Supreme Court cases against Mr Salvestrin have been in the civil jurisdiction, meaning they relate to property or money and are not criminal matters.

Mr Salvestrin has not been charged with any crimes related to this matter.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Tax Office have both declined Region’s request to comment on whether they are investigating this liquidation further.

Original Article published by Oliver Jacques on Region Riverina.

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