“Diamond Joe” Gutnick and his a company in which he is a director are being sued by India’s largest fertiliser collective for a combined payment of $US40.4 million ($55.6 million) plus interest over a 2008 deal to set up an entity to take on Incitec Pivot.
New Delhi-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative and its Dubai domiciled subsidiary, Kisan International Trading, have filed a claim in the Supreme Court of Victoria against the former BRW rich lister and a company he leads, Legend International Holdings.
IFFCO, which had $6.9 billion in revenue last year, is seeking to enforce a final award issued in Singapore on May 7 by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.
Mr Gutnick described the decision by the Singapore arbitrator as “bizarre” and said he would vigorously defend the claim.
IFFCO’s filing said the final award was linked to a share options agreement, a shareholder agreement, and a deed of adherence, all dated July 14, 2008.
In 2008, to much fanfare, Mr Gutnick and his business partners announced a $103 million deal to supply Queensland phosphate to IFFCO.
Under the deal, IFFCO was to invest the $103 million over two years through shares and options in Legend International Holdings.
United States listed Legend International owns 100 per cent of the shares in the Mount Isa phosphate producer and one-time listing hopeful, Paradise Phosphate.
IFFCO claims Mr Gutnick has been ordered to pay $US28.05 million and Legend International $US12.35 million by the Singapore arbitrator. IFFCO is also seeking interest on the payments.
“They have paid no sums to the applicants to satisfy the final award, in part or full. Neither of the respondents have responded to letters of demand … nor otherwise communicated with the applicants any intention to comply with the final award,” Kisan International director Mahesh Chandra Gupta said in his affidavit.
“The applicants verily believe that the respondents have assets in Australia,” Mr Gupta said.
Mr Gutnick made his fortune and earned his nickname “Diamond Joe” through his extensive investments in diamond and gold projects that created such personal wealth he graced the pages of the BRW Rich List for many years, the last time in 2014 when his wealth was estimated at $255 million.
Mr Gutnick said he denied “absolutely” any wrongdoing.
“I have instructed my solicitors to take all steps necessary to prevent the enforcement of the award in Australia on the basis that the award was made contrary to the public policy of Australia and the rules of natural justice,” Mr Gutnick said.
“I reject absolutely the findings made against me personally. The findings are entirely against the evidence,” Mr Gutnick said.
He said he was happy the matter was being brought before the Australian courts and was confident his lawyers would “put it straight”.
“The arbitral panel, which is not a court of law, acted with actual or ostensible bias as shown by the fact that the panel made findings that were entirely inconsistent with the objective facts, ignored evidence which was destructive of IFFCO’s case, provided no reasons for its so-called findings.”