Court rejects $10.7m fraud appeal

HE was once thetrusted lieutenant of United Arab EmiratesbillionaireHis Excellency Nasser Lootah and co-director of his boss’shigh-profile Murrurundi horse-breeding farm.
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For years Rajesh Chimanlal Upadhyayaenjoyed a lavish lifestyle while working for theDubai-based owner of Emirates Park Stud.

But the relationship soured in 2011 when Upadhyaya was arrested by Australian police and found guilty of systematically defrauding the Upper Hunter studof $10.7 million by invoicing Emirates Parkfor thousands of tonnes of oats and hay which he never provided.

Last week, Upadhyaya had hisappeal against a12-year jail sentence, with a non-parole period of seven years and nine months,dismissed by a three-judge bench in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Healso unsuccessfully appealed against $750,000 compensationhe was ordered to pay Emirates Park–the maximum the court could require.

His lawyer’s argued that the sentence, handed down in the District Court in August 2015, was“manifestly excessive”, partly because the impact on Emirates Park was only a“temporary setback”, mitigated by Mr Lootah’sfinancial position.

They were also unable to convince the judges to overturn thecompensation order despite the fact thatUpadhyaya’sAustralian assets werefrozen and sold by the bank.

The Sydney District Court heard in 2015 that Emirates Park losses talliedmore than $100 million during the time of the offences and the stud essentially“operates asHis Excellency’s hobby”.

WORLD CLASS: District Court Judge Donna Woodburne said the impact on Emirates Park was significant.

As co-director, Upadhyaya was given financial responsibility for the propertyandorderedhay and oats to feed thefoals and yearlingsbetween 2005 and 2010.

He was responsible forauthorisinginvoicesand signing cheques for payment.

However, at the same time, Upadhyaya had a controlling interest in two horse-feed companies–Tamworth Quality Grains and Feedpoint–which supplied Emirates Park.

He charged the studfor tens of thousands of tonnes of oats and hay which the feed companies were supposed to provide.

But the amount of feed ordered was up to ten times more than what the horses on the stud could ever possibly eat–and at times more than 90 per cent more than what was supplied.

Upadhyaya then filtered themoney back into his own pockets through various bank accounts, a credit card and other companies.

In 2006, Tamworth Quality Grain issued 26 fraudulent invoices to Emirates Park for more than 34,000 bails of hay valued at $783,705.

Upadhyaya paid the invoices by writing 19 cheques.

The next year, Tamworth Quality Grain invoiced Emirates for 4600 tonnes of oats.

This was despite the fact that the horses only ate300 tonnes of oats a year.

The annual invoiced sums ranged between$54,824, in 2005,to $1,816,223, in 2007. The first invoice overstated the feed supply by 28 per cent, the second by 33 per cent.

In the end, Upadhyayawas overcharging by up to90 per cent.

On oneoccasion, he ordered feedfrom a third-party supplier andEmirates Park paid for it, butthebulk of fodder was delivered to his own property,to feedhis own horses.

The District Court heard that Upadhyaya described to a psychologist the “flamboyant lifestyle” of lavish luxury he enjoyed working for Mr Lootah in Dubai.

But claimed when he moved to Australia to run the Murrurundi horse stud, he initially received a $5000 stipend every six months and then an annual salary of $25,000.

Billionaire: Wealthy Dubai businessman His Excellency Nasser Lootah owns the Murrurundi horse stud.

Upadhyaya initially pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of defrauding Emirates Park.

Following a lengthy trial, he was convicted of 14 counts of defrauding a body corporate while serving as a director. Hehad no previous criminal record.

Emirates Park, previously known as Blandford Park Stud,is situated on the New EnglandHighway.

Mr Lootah establishedhis Australian thoroughbred operation in the 1980s, which also includes a property in Victoria.

In recent years, his son, Hussain, has been heavily involved in running the business and announced a joint venturewith Aquis Farm,backed by Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung, in April.

Under the deal, Aquis will manage Emirates Park Murrurundi stud and stallions Artie Schiller, Dream Ahead and Al Maher. Emirates will retain ownership of the farmand its broodmares.

The decision comes after Emirates Park decided to focus more intensively on growing its broodmare and racing interests.