High-profile Indian billionaire businessman Pankaj Oswal’s wife on Wednesday told an Australian court that top ANZ executives forced her to sign the guarantee of over 1 billion dollars and a mortgage despite she making clear that she did not want to be liable for her husband’s debts.
Pankaj and his wife Radhika Oswal are fighting a legal battle against the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) for allegedly undervaluing shares of their fertiliser company to recoup millions in debts. The Victorian court heard that ANZ chief legal officer Bob Santamaria told Radhika that her children would be “orphans” if they did not sign a guarantee, media reported.
The court heard ANZ sought the guarantee after it emerged that Pankaj had forged documents to show his company, Burrup Fertilisers, had the support of European banks ahead of getting a further 1 billion dollars in loans from ANZ.
Radhika told the court she was told as “Both of them will go to jail and the children would become orphans. You played a part in defrauding the bank and you would go to jail too.” Stating that it was unjustified for the bank to drag her into her husband’s problems, she said, “I thought they’d gone nuts or something and I wasn’t going to be party to it.”
The couple have filed a lawsuit against ANZ and receivers PPB Advisory claiming damages worth 2.5 billion dollars over the sale of a 65 per cent stake in Burrup Holdings, in 2012. They sold their share in the company for 560 million dollars. The court heard that ANZ pressured them into under sell their share and ANZ chief risk officer Chris Page told Pankaj to “bloody well sign the documents or we will destroy you” during negotiations in 2009.
“We had an arrangement. I had said I would sign and they had said they would not report the matter and our lives would go on as normal,” Radhika said while referring to ANZ chief risk officer Chris Page who had told her that he would not report her husband’s alleged fraud to Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority if she agreed to sign the guarantee.
She said that Page told her “You are here because none of us want this to come out. If we wanted this to come out don’t you think that we would have already reported the matter and sent Pankaj to jail.”
Radhika also told the court she witnessed the physical altercation between ANZ chief risk officer Chris Page and her husband at a meeting in Melbourne on December 20, 2009. “His [Page’s] arm was around Pankaj, around his shoulders, and he was towering over him...as soon as I saw this he stopped... Pankaj was very red-faced,” she told the court.
She said her husband left the preliminary meeting with Page furious, telling his wife “They are very angry. He [Page] is very angry. We better sign the documents. We bloody well better sign the document,” the court heard.