INSOL more appealing than in-person appearance

Hall Chadwick’s Richard Albarran.
Barrister Geoff McDonald.

Richard Albarran wasn’t going to let being a defendant in a marathon legal battle get in the way of attending this year’s INSOL event, particularly when the conference’s location in Tokyo meant that the Hall Chadwick Sydney partner would be in a convenient time zone when it came time to be questioned.

That turn came yesterday when the NSW Supreme Court’s audiovisual link was established to reveal Albarran, stylishly attired and seated in a beige room, ready to answer questions in respect of a saga that may have no equivalent in Australian insolvency history.

iNO will provide only the scantest background, given a detailed account would require somewhat more bandwidth than readers customarily deploy.

We can say that the saga began in the early years of this century, when mortgage originator Ian Lazar ran the Business Australia Group (BA Group) of companies.

A BA Group contractor, Owen Salmon, had provided consulting and bookkeeping services as well as loans to two BA Group entities, Business Australia Capital Finance (BACF) and Business Australia Capital Mortgage (BACM) through his company, Terra Cresta Business Solutions (TCBS).

In 2006 Salmon through TCBS sought to enforce the charges – valued at in excess of $2 million – by appointing Hall Chadwick partner Richard Albarran and former partner and now barrister Geoff McDonald as receivers of the two entities.

But BACF and BACM were being wound up upon the application of ASIC and liquidator Andrew Wily countered the TCBS action by applying to have TCBS wound up and the receivers’ appointments declared invalid.

Albarran and McDonald resisted and the subsequent litigation ended badly for them, worse for their lawyer Steven Brown of Etienne Lawyers – who reportedly finished $250,000 out of pocket – and worst for Salmon, who lost his livelihood and was bankrupted.

From there Salmon commenced an unrelenting campaign to recover what he believes he’s owed, targeting the partners of Hall Chadwick Sydney in general and Albarran and McDonald in particular.

By the time Albarran took his place in the virtual witness box yesterday, Salmon’s counsel Howard Insall SC had already questioned other key players, including McDonald, Brown and Jim Byrnes.

Insall began by asking Albarran how he came to be in Tokyo when he’d indicated in February that he’d be available to attend court during the hearing, which was listed to commence on August 28.

Albarran said his wife had booked part of the trip – a stay in Seoul was included – and that his PA had booked the other half but the fact he’d chosen to travel during the hearing elicited no comment from newly minted judge Scott Nixon.

Albarran, who may have been regretting that his attendance via AVL meant missing the opening remark’s of INSOL President and Norton Rose Fullbright global chairman Scott Atkins, also confirmed that he’d discussed the case during the hearing with the Hall Chadwick legal team from Hall & Willcox “from time time”.

When asked if he’d had contact with the other witnesses he said no, adding that he’d not “communicated with Mr McDonald for years”, a rift McDonald told the court last week had been caused by Albarran’s “treatment of his ex-wife” and Albarran’s ” .. treatment of my wife on social occasions”.

Insall then asked him if he’d received a transcript of the hearing to date.

Explaining that he received between 250 and 300 emails a day Albarran replied, “I may have received it. I haven’t read it.”

Albarran was then questioned on his understanding of the duties and obligations receivers owe to their appointees before the ordeal concluded. The parties are due to return to make submissions tomorrow.

This story is published for the benefit of iNO Priority holders and must not be shared, copied, reproduced or otherwise distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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