A Melbourne pharmacy is being sued for more than $6.5 million for allegedly failing to deliver vitamins, milk powder, and cosmetic goods destined for China.
A group of Chinese-born wholesalers has filed a lawsuit against Alex Puthenpurackal, the proprietor of Ascot Vale’s PharmaDeal Pharmacy, which is accused of failing to produce supplies and refusing to issue refunds.
The nasty commercial fight has thrown light on the brisk demand in China for Swisse, Blackmores, and Bellamy’s health goods.
According to documents filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Mr Puthenpurackal broke his contractual commitments and engaged in misleading or dishonest behaviour toward multiple former clients, who are now facing financial devastation.
Some have been compelled to sell their houses, relocate, work seven days a week, and withdraw their children from private schools.
Blackmores, a vitamin company, has also filed a lawsuit against Mr Puthenpurackal’s company in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. A Blackmores spokesman refused to comment on their disagreement or the damages sought.
Mr Puthenpurackal, on the other hand, vehemently denies owing money to angry clients or Blackmores, and in certain cases has filed counter-claims saying that he is owed millions of dollars.
His lawyer, Jules Marra of SGM Legal, has accused one of Mr Puthenpurackal’s creditors of attempting to recoup the purported debts by enlisting the help of underworld figure Mick Gatto.
Photographer: Jason South
Mr Puthenpurackal got an SMS message from Mr Gatto on May 9, 2019.
“We’d want to have coffee with you and talk about all of this. You said you’d call, but you haven’t yet “Mr Gatto allegedly stated in the message.
When approached by The Age, Mr Gatto declined to comment.
Mr Puthenpurackal’s former clientele, on the other hand, have categorically denied any interaction with the underworld figure.
Chinese businessman Jie Li alleges in court records and a written statement to police that in June 2017, he was asked by Mr Puthenpurackal to make prepayments on all purchases since “that was the way wholesale worked
However, Mr Li argues that the merchandise provided could not be reconciled with payments within months. Mr Jie’s firm paid $42,366,881 to Mr Puthenpurackal’s company between February 2017 and August 2018, but he says in a Supreme Court petition that he only received shares worth $37,593,900.
Mr Puthenpurackal, who also goes by the name Alex Jestin, seems to concede that a debt is owing to Mr Li in an email dated August 6, last year, before presenting a repayment plan for $5.4 million in four instalments.
According to a forensic accounting investigation commissioned by Mr Li, more than $5.2 million in merchandise was not delivered.
Mr Li claims he has never spoken with Mr Gatto.
“My wife and I are heartbroken. We’re at a loss on what to do. We’ve lost our life savings and her parents’ savings. We’ve had to sell two homes and will have to pull our children out of school. We feel completely misled “According to Mr Li,
Mr Puthenpurackal and his lawyer, Mr Marra, have a different story and intend to “vigorously defend the claims made against him and has issued substantial counter-claims”
“Our client has attempted to resolve issues on several occasions by inviting parties to cooperate independent audits. These invites have constantly been declined “Mr. Marra said.
“As there is ongoing litigation about these matters it is inappropriate to comment any further,” he added.
SLF Lawyers partner John Gdanski, who is representing many debtors, has accused Mr Puthenpurackal and his lawyer of purposefully prolonging mediation attempts.
Mr Gdanski represents Chinese-born entrepreneur Vivian Luan, who has also filed a civil writ in the Victorian Supreme Court claiming she is entitled $895,786 in refunds for vitamins and skin-care goods she never got.
She also has emails from Mr Puthenpurackal that appear to recognise a debt and set a repayment plan in place.
“Based on our interaction, we determined that I owe $889,661.55 in stock payments. I promise to reimburse this on October 8, 2018 “In an email sent on August 4, last year, Mr Puthenpurackal said.
Ms Luan stated that since filing legal procedures against Mr Puthenpurackal, she has had to work seven days a week, which has left her agitated and despondent.
She claims that the financial difficulties have produced a schism in her extended family, who have also lost money investing in her firm.
Ms Luan also denies ever having spoken with Mr Gatto.
If you are being misled, you must also take legal action to defend your rights and interests. There can never be a fair conclusion if the law is defended by breaching the law.
While the Anti-Corruption Commission looks into the policeman, it is anticipated that the pharmacy’s debt issue can be further handled and the victims will get fair treatment.