New $40m bombshell in Barbera empire collapse

COMPANIES connected to the Barbera family farming empire could owe as much as $40 million following a creditor's report into one of half a dozen business in financial pain.

The Barbera family have been farming zucchinis, capsicum and tomatoes in the Bundaberg region for almost five decades.

Six companies associated with family patriarch Giatano (Guy) Barbera or the family name have either gone into liquidation or been wound up over the past two years with alleged debts of more than $11 million.

One of those companies was Barbera Farms which allegedly owed more than $1.496 million, however a creditor's report unearthed a yet-to-be proven debt of $28 million owed to non-bank lender, LPG#1.

Guy Barbera is the patriarch of a long established farming family in the Bundaberg region. Several companies connected to him or the farming business have struck financial hurdles.   Pic: Robyne Cuerel
Guy Barbera is the patriarch of a long established farming family in the Bundaberg region. Several companies connected to him or the farming business have struck financial hurdles. Pic: Robyne Cuerel

LPG#1 is based in Sydney. Its sole director is Matt Maley who was also the sole director of Barbera Farms which was wound up on April 11.

"The current sole director of the company, Mr Matthew Maley, has not yet provided a company report as to affairs, however, he has provided some books and records and is generally assisting us with our duties," the report by chartered accountants David Clout & Associates, stated.

"LPG#1 Pty Ltd (LPG) has a charge over all or substantially all of the assets of the company and claims to be owed some $28 million dollars. However, we are yet to receive a proof of debt in this regard."

Guy's daughter Courtney Barbera registered Barbera Farms in February 2017 although she ceased being a director last July. She was the sole shareholder of Barbera Farms.

The 23-year-old and Mr Maley are among 10 employees who have made claims that they are owed an "unknown" amount of unpaid wages.

Courtney and Mr Maley are not the subject of any investigation while Mr Maley declined to comment.

Bodybuilder Courtney Barbera was the sole shareholder of Barbera Farms when it went into liquidation. She was also listed as being owed an unknown amount of wages by the business in the creditor’s report. Photo: Mike Knott
Bodybuilder Courtney Barbera was the sole shareholder of Barbera Farms when it went into liquidation. She was also listed as being owed an unknown amount of wages by the business in the creditor’s report. Photo: Mike Knott

The latest revelation follows the liquidator for Barbera Transport suing Guy and Barbera Holdings for more than half a million dollars for trading insolvent over an 11 month period.

Guy was the director of Barbera Transport, one of more than a dozen companies under his directorship, when it went into liquidation in February 2017 with debts of more than $800,000.

He was the director of Barbera Fresh (with debts of more than $5.7 million), IPG Global ($1 million), Barbera Properties ($1.45 million) and Barbera Transport.

Barbera Transport's liquidator John Goggin from Worrells lodged a claim in the District Court on May 3 that alleges Barbera Transport traded insolvent from March 2016 until it was wound up on February 2017.

It also claimed that money from the sale of equipment and machinery was paid to companies that were "not related to specific invoices".

Details of some of the companies connected to the Barbera family farm empire which have hit hard times. Pic. Courier-Mail
Details of some of the companies connected to the Barbera family farm empire which have hit hard times. Pic. Courier-Mail

The liquidator claimed Barbera Transport disposed of the majority of its plant and equipment in May 2016 and the proceeds were insufficient to enable the company to meet all of its obligations.

"The company paid certain creditors round sum payments not related to specific invoices during the relevant period," he claimed.

The payments included $40,000 to Barbera Fresh in May 2016 and two separate amounts of $80,000 and $29,000 to IPG Global in June 2016.

The debts totalling $586,295, that were allegedly incurred while trading insolvent, include $138,257 to the ATO, $19,066 to the Office of State Revenue and $421,615 to IPG Global.

IPG Global went into liquidation last August and Barbera Fresh went into liquidation in the same month.

IPG Global is also an unsecured creditor of Barbera Farms for $1.242 million.

In a statutory report to creditors, lodged with ASIC last November, Barbera Fresh's liquidator Moira Carter from BRI Ferrier wrote under recovery actions that she identified "uncommercial transactions" and "phoenix activities interrelated company transactions".



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