15 February 2016
New Zealand police have seized Indian restaurant chain Masala's 33 properties worth $34 million in what is believed to be the largest cache of property ever restrained by the law enforcement authorities in New Zealand, a media report said.
The asset freeze came after allegations of tax fraud to the tune of $7.4 million dollars, newstalkzb.co.nz reported on Saturday. Revenue authorities have been investigating 17 firms involved with the Masala chain for allegedly under-reporting earnings.
The restaurant chain owners, Joti Jain, Rupinder Chahil, Rajwinder Grewal and Supinder Singh have allegedly evaded paying tax by systematically stripping cash from the restaurants and not declaring cash sales in GST returns, investigator Elena Bryleva stated in an affidavit. The brand came under scrutiny last year for paying its employees as little as $2 an hour. Co-owner Jain was sentenced to 11 months home detention last October after admitting immigration and exploitation charges.
According to Immigration New Zealand, one of her victims worked 66 hour weeks for months at the Takapuna restaurant and was also told to clean Jain's house - all for no more than $3 an hour. Masala founder Chahil is already facing six charges alleging he falsified immigration documents and supplied misleading information contrary to immigration laws.
Properties seized include a $3 million dollar house in Auckland's Remuera area, a parcel of land in Takanini and four other properties believed to have been used as accommodation for Masala workers. Some of the restaurants have since been sold and renamed.