Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hastie transfers millions from Middle East, top bosses leave, workers' entitlements in jeopardy

The ABC has learned that as many as 1,500 Hastie Group workers in the United Arab Emirates may have lost not only their jobs but also their entitlements in the company's collapse late last week.

Their termination entitlements are in jeopardy because more than $3 million was transferred from Dubai to Australia in the days before administrators and receivers were brought in.

The company's top three executives, who signed off on the money transfer, then left Dubai on fears they may be detained.

On May 20, as Hastie Group executives tried to negotiate a new deal with their banking partners, Hastie International electronically transferred 11 million dirhams - more than $3 million - from their local bank in Dubai to ANZ Bank in Sydney.

The transfer document shows the move was signed off by Hastie's regional finance manager Nathan Davidson and Gary Allen, the regional human resources manager.

It is understood that the transfer was ordered by Hastie's head office in Sydney because of the fragile nature of the company and rapidly evaporating cash flow.

This has left Hastie's head office in Dubai with little or no money to cover the entitlements of around 1,500 workers, some of whom are expatriate Australians.

There is no suggestion of unlawful activity, however Mr Davidson and Mr Allen left Dubai on Monday, when administrators were officially appointed in Australia.

Another top executive, Robert Kirkham, who has had a long history with Hastie, also departed, because of the very real risk that once word of the Hastie collapse hit, those managers faced the prospect of being detained under strict laws in the United Arab Emirates about the need to cover worker entitlements.