Farming empire’s alleged debts balloon to $80m
DEBTS owed by companies tied to the Barbera family farming empire have skyrocketed to $80 million as the corporate watchdog funds an investigation into its operations.
A report lodged with ASIC last week claimed Barbera Farms owed more than $68 million including outstanding loans of more than $53 million and $11 million in accrued interest.
The alleged debts were in addition to some $1.5 million already allegedly owed by Barbera Farms and more than $9 million owed by companies tied to the family name.
The claims come on top a series of battles facing members of the Barbera family which have been farming zucchinis, capsicum and tomatoes in the Bundaberg region for almost 50 years.
Barbera Farms was wound-up in April while four companies tied to family patriarch Giatano (Guy) Barbera have gone into liquidation.
Guy's daughter Courtney, a fitness model and the sole shareholder of Barbera Farms when it collapsed, is being sued for more than $220,000 over her involvement as director of the company until mid-2018.
Also named in that law suit was Matt Maley who took over from Courtney as director.
Mr Maley is also a significant secured creditor of Barbera Farms, according to the Company Activities and Property report he filed last week with ASIC.
He alleges his company LPG#1 is owed more than $35 million plus interest from four separate loans.
Also owed money from alleged loans are Melbourne-based company Nutrano Produce ($10.977m) and First Class Securities ($6.2 million).
Nutrano Produce Group CEO George Haggar declined to comment.
Mr Maley said he would wait for the liquidator's decision before making a statement.
Both Mr Maley and Ms Barbera are being sued for unpaid hire fees and repairs by Lencrow Forklifts in the Brisbane District Court.
Mr Barbera has his own legal battles.
He is the director of 14 companies including Barbera Fresh which went into liquidation in August 2018 with debts totalling more than $5.7 million.
He was also director of IPG (Global), Barbera Transport and Barbera Properties when they were placed in liquidation in 2017.
IPG (Global) is believed to owe the taxman alone more than a $1 million while Barbera Properties has debts of more than $1.45 million while Barbera Transport owes more than $800,000.
Mr Barbara and his company Barbera Holdings were being sued for more than half a million dollars by the liquidator of Barbera Transport for trading insolvent over an 11 month period.
Barbera Fresh liquidator Moira Carter told The Courier-Mail that ASIC has funded a report into the collapse of Barbera Fresh.
"ASIC are very keen to assist the liquidators in dealing with these matters," Ms Carter said.
"I am writing a report which will help me fund this investigation and the report will be purely for ASIC."
Barbera Farms, which was itself was wound up on April 11, is attempting to wind-up Barbera Family Farms which is now known as A. C. N 605 684 295 over a $1.1 million debt.
Mr Barbera's racing driver son Mason was the sole director of Barbera Family Farms until April 2 when, amid the million lawsuit, he was replaced by his father.
Mason has his own business M & R Farms.
The Barberas and the liquidator of Barbera Farms were contacted for comment.