Housing developer’s $5m mess sees director banned

A director and manager of a failed Auckland housing developer which left dozens of home buyers stranded and millions owning in tax were chased through the courts by liquidators for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tribeca Homes collapsed in 2015 following reports dozens of home buyers who had handed over tens of thousands of dollars in deposits were left with incomplete – or even unstarted – houses.

Liquidators Grant Thornton concluded the administration this week, with the last report into the company’s affairs prepared by Stephanie Jeffreys and Timothy Downes saying creditors owed nearly $5m – including $2.45m to Inland Revenue in unpaid taxes – received nothing.

The report also notes the company’s sole director, accountant Mark Richards, was pursued with legal claims that eventually ended with a $280,000 settlement.

Claims were also filed against Ritesh Mani, Tribeca’s self-described “number one sales executive”, and an associated family trust for $133,032.

At the time of the company’s collapse Mani was subject to his second bankruptcy, and prohibited from directing or managing a company. The Herald reported at the time Mani had flown himself and other Tribeca sales staff to hear a “motivational” speech by Jordan Belfort, the fraudster best-known as the main character in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Richard told the Herald in 2015 of Mani’s chequered business background: “I’m not saying he’s a saint, but the one thing the boy could do was sell.”

Insolvent trading at Tribeca identified by liquidators was forwarded to the registrar of companies who took enforcement action in June 2016 to try and prohibit the pair from operating businesses in future.

Richards was handed a four-and-a-half-year ban, and Mani three and a half years – but the latter successfully appealed against his ban in court.

Justice Susan Thomas agreed with Mani’s lawyer that a report relied on by the Registrar to ban Mani from business activity was largely concerned with mismanagement by Richards, and a second report should have been ordered.

However, Thomas was largely supportive of the intent – if not the process – of the Registrar.

“It was not difficult to see how the Registrar came to the conclusion that the company had traded recklessly where it had consciously accepted deposits for contracts it knew could not be honoured, and filed to file tax returns,” Justice Thomas wrote.

The ruling also outlined how Richard told liquidators that he had very little to do with the company and Mani “essentially ran the company and make key decisions on its behalf,” leading to claims the then-bankrupt sales executive was effectively operating as a “shadow director”.

Mani, after successfully appealing against his banning order, soon exited bankruptcy and went on to found and direct new housing developer Eco-Smart Homes.

Mani also directs a property advisory firm which says on its Facebook page: “We are property consultants that help you recover your tax money back”.

Source: Read Full Article