‘ANZ executives told Oswals their children would be orphans’

From Natasha Chaku Melbourne, Aug 17 (PTI) High-profile Indian billionairebusinessman Pankaj Oswal’s wife today told an Australian courtthat top ANZ executives forced her to sign the guarantee ofover 1 billion dollars and a mortgage despite she making clearthat she did not want to be liable for her husband’s debts. Pankaj and his wife Radhika Oswal are fighting a legalbattle against the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group(ANZ) for allegedly undervaluing shares of their fertilisercompany to recoup millions in debts. The Victorian court heard that ANZ chief legal officerBob 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 emergedthat Pankaj had forged documents to show his company, BurrupFertilisers, had the support of European banks ahead ofgetting a further 1 billion dollars in loans from ANZ. Radhika told the court she was told as "Both of them willgo to jail and the children would become orphans. You played apart in defrauding the bank and you would go to jail too." Stating that it was unjustified for the bank to drag herinto her husband’s problems, she said, "I thought they’d gonenuts or something and I wasn’t going to be party to it." The couple have filed a lawsuit against ANZ and receiversPPB Advisory claiming damages worth 2.5 billion dollars overthe sale of a 65 per cent stake in Burrup Holdings, in 2012. They sold their share in the company for 560 milliondollars. The court heard that ANZ pressured them into under selltheir share and ANZ chief risk officer Chris Page toldPankaj to "bloody well sign the documents or we will destroyyou" during negotiations in 2009. "We had an arrangement. I had said I would sign and theyhad said they would not report the matter and our lives wouldgo on as normal," Radhika said while referring to ANZ chiefrisk officer Chris Page who had told her that he would notreport her husband’s alleged fraud to Australian PrudentialRegulatory Authority if she agreed to sign the guarantee. She said that Page told her "You are here because none ofus want this to come out. If we wanted this to come out don’tyou think that we would have already reported the matter andsent Pankaj to jail." Radhika also told the court she witnessed the physicalaltercation between ANZ chief risk officer Chris Page and herhusband 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 hestopped… Pankaj was very red-faced," she told the court. She said her husband left the preliminary meeting withPage furious, telling his wife "They are very angry. He [Page]is very angry. We better sign the documents. We bloody wellbetter sign the document," the court heard. The Oswals have sued ANZ bank for 1.5 billion dollarsafter it allegedly seized and sold their Western Australianfertiliser company for 560 million dollars which the familyclaim was worth 1.385 billion dollars. PTI NC ABH AKJABH

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