MELBOURNE: Australia’s ANZ bank’s senior officials used “racial” remarks in an email exchange to describe an Indian billionaire couple who has launched a 1.5 billion dollar lawsuit against the top financial institution, Supreme Court of Victoria heard today.
The court heard that in an email exchanged in 2009 between ANZ senior executive Chris Page and former CEO Mike Smith, Page used several “derogatory terms” to describe Pankaj and Radhika Oswal, media reports said.
“In essence we are dealing with two very unsavory characters. We are dealing with Indians with no moral compass and an Indian woman who is every bit as devious as PO (Pankaj Oswal)” Page wrote to Smith.
Lawyer for the Oswal couple Tony Bannon argued that the use of the word Indian by Page in the email was “derogatory”.
“It is no more than less than racial bigotry,” Bannon said, adding that it implied the couple “had character flaws that were essentially Indian”.
“To think he could send it to the CEO of the bank without the fear of rebuke betrayed what was indeed the true culture of what was acceptable for the CEO of the bank,” Bannon said.
Bannon told the ongoing trial that instead of admonishing Page, Smith’s response showed he held similar beliefs to Page.
“Chris Well done. I guess we just need to keep the pressure on. What a bunch,” Smith wrote in his response to Page.
The sensational allegations come just days after the high-profile Indian couple launched 1.5 billion dollar lawsuit, one of the biggest in Australia’s legal history, against ANZ bank for allegedly undervaluing shares of their fertilizer company ‘Burrup Fertilizers’ to recoup millions in debts.
The couple alleges that their stake was sold for USD 560 million which was far less than they say it was worth. They are seeking damages of between 1.5 billion dollars and 2.5 billion dollars over the sale.
Meanwhile, ANZ Bank has accused the couple of siphoning off 150 million dollars of company funds for personal use.
The Oswals have also disputed a 186 million dollar tax bill issued by the Australian Taxation Office.–PTI