Australian dairy farmers owed millions

Antonio Esposito does not look like a man who has worked with Australian dairy farmers for the past two decades.
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He spends summers on his yacht on the Gold Coast, lives in a A$10 million (NZ$10.5 million) mansion in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton, and is known for his lavish parties, including his daughter’s christening which featured a performance by Delta Goodrem.
And that is why the farmers owed millions of dollars for milk supplied to Esposito’s National Dairy Products have urged the corporate watchdog to forensically audit his assets. They wonder how he can maintain his flamboyant lifestyle and enviable property portfolio yet not have the money to pay them.
Esposito, known as Tony, bought milk from farmers to supply manufacturers of milk-based products.
He said his assets are not linked to the dairy brokering company, and claims he has fought for dairy farmers to be paid more in the midst of supermarket price wars and multinationals dropping their prices.
The generous rates he paid farmers for milk, he believes, ultimately sunk the company, as the market did not recover as he expected, leaving him unable to pay them what he promised.
The company was incorporated in April last year and placed into administration on November 17.
On Wednesday, in a Bourke Street boardroom, another chapter will be written.
Either the creditors of NDP, who are owed more than A$4.3m, will vote to approve a last-ditch bid to keep the company afloat, or will push for liquidation, which could reveal more about where their money has gone.
Should the company stay afloat and be managed by administrators Deloitte, unsecured creditors – which include all the farmers – could be paid as little as 5c in the dollar.
The creditors include dairy farmers from across Victoria, predominantly the south-west and Gippsland, who each have claims ranging from a few thousand dollars to as much as A$1.1m.
Alex Robertson and his brother Robert supplied milk to Esposito’s former company, United Dairy Power, before he sold it for A$70m to a Hong Kong-based company.
When he approached them early last year about his new venture, they helped him recruit other farmers.
Soon after, Esposito stopped paying his bill.
«Pretty much since December last year, every month, we were ringing Tony to beg for money,» Robertson said.
«By October, we were really yelling and screaming.»
When they left NDP on November 11, claiming they were owed A$675,000, they were one of the first farms to do so. Others soon followed.
These farmers included Fiona and Lynden Plant, who milk 900 cows at two dairies in Riverslea, north-east of Sale.
She said it had been an awful year for dairy farmers, given the retrospective price cuts, and that the failure of NDP had only made it worse.
She said NDP owed them A$558,000.
Ms Plant said she hoped a liquidation would explain why Esposito was able to convert an A$8m investment he made in the company to a loan.
He then claimed payments of more than A$3.3m from the company as repayment, while the company he founded all but collapsed.
Company statements indicate that «TE Expenses» – understood to stand for Tony Esposito – accounted for A$538,000 in three months from July to September alone.
The creditors report prepared by Deloitte finds that Esposito, by virtue of the loan, is the largest unsecured creditor.
«We have not yet formally verified the quantum of this debt, or its treatment as a «debt» of the company,» the report finds.
The report issued last week also found that Esposito and his wife Violetta Esposito could have breached multiple sections of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission Act.
These possible breaches include trading while insolvent, as it appears NDP has been since last December.
Esposito said he had nothing to hide..
«I’m proud of what I’ve done for farmers over the years and I hold my head up.»
Source: Stuff

Mirá También

Así lo expresó Domingo Possetto, secretario de la seccional Rafaela, quien además, afirmó que a los productores «habitualmente los ignoran los gobiernos». Además, reconoció la labor de los empresarios de las firmas locales y aseguró que están «esperanzados» con la negociación entre SanCor y Adecoagro.

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