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الرئيسية | استراليا | Salim Mehajer ordered to pay more than $1 million in 'marble palace' dispute

Salim Mehajer ordered to pay more than $1 million in 'marble palace' dispute

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المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald
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The exquisite staircase inside Mehajer's mansion on Frances Street. Photo: Supplied

Salim Mehajer has been ordered to pay more than $1 million after a court found he failed to pay for elaborate stonework at his "marble palace" in Lidcombe.

 

In a judgment delivered on Wednesday, District Court judge Judith Gibson said the former Auburn councillor contracted a Greenacre-based company for a "massive project" installing marble and other stonework at his Frances Street home.

 

Judge Gibson said the company, Prime Marble & Granite, "constructed a marble palace in accordance with the defendant's instructions, the exquisiteness of which is not in dispute".

 

She said it was also not in dispute that Mr Mehajer did not pay the $596,178 invoice, sent in August 2015, either "within 30 days or at all".

 

An expert report tendered in court valued the works at $945,516, and Judge Gibson said Mr Mehajer "appears to have had the benefit of a bargain of some magnitude".

 

Mr Mehajer had argued he was not liable to pay the bill because there was a deal that the materials and labour would be supplied at "trade rates" and the value of the works would be credited to the purchase by the company of a unit in a proposed Mehajer development.

 

He also denied the invoice reflected the value of the work done, although Judge Gibson noted there was "no challenge to the adequacy of the work performed".

 

In response, the company said there was no "trade rates" deal and, while there was a deal for "two specific units" in a Mehajer development to be transferred to it "at a price reflecting a discount equal to the value of the work", planning approval for the proposed development was not granted.

 

Mr Mehajer did not appear in the District Court on Wednesday but the case proceeded in his absence.

 

The court heard he had fallen out with his lawyer, Penny Musgrave, who was given formal permission to withdraw from the case but stayed for the duration of the hearing to assist the court.

 

Judge Gibson said Ms Musgrave was in an "impossible position" and thanked her for "kindly" agreeing to assist during the hearing.

 

Emails tendered in court showed Ms Musgrave wrote to Mr Mehajer last week and advised she intended to cease acting for him for several reasons, including his failure to respond to "repeated requests for instructions" and his withdrawal of most of the funds held in her trust account.

 

Ms Musgrave wrote that this left "no funds for this matter".

 

Two days later, on October 5, Mehajer replied: "Hi Penny. Please advise I am in Canberra following the death of my grandmother."

 

Ms Musgrave replied on the same day, reiterating that he needed to find a new lawyer.

 

Judge Gibson said that in circumstances where Mr Mehajer failed to file any evidence in reply and challenged the company's entitlement to be paid only on "limited grounds", his challenges must be dismissed and ordered him to pay $668,276, which covered the invoice and interest.

 

She also took the unusual step of ordering Mr Mehajer to pay the company's legal bill on an indemnity basis, which would cover its entire bill. This was estimated at more than $350,000.

 

In most cases a successful plaintiff will recover a smaller percentage of their costs from the defendant.

 

Judge Gibson said Mr Mehajer's failure to comply with "numerous extensions of time" amounted to a "cavalier disregard" for court rules requiring the proceedings to be conducted in such a way as to "facilitate the just, quick and cheap resolution of the real issues" in the case.

 

It is not the first time Mr Mehajer has failed to appear in court, nor the first time he has fallen out with a lawyer.

 

On September 28, Mr Mehajer failed to show up for a separate court case, where he is being sued by his former cleaner Anping Yan over unpaid wages.

 

The Local Court notified Mr Mehajer that if he failed to appear when the case returns to court later this month, a warrant may be issued for his arrest.

 

In July a Sydney solicitor acting for Mr Mehajer in yet another dispute lost a court bid to stop acting for him on the basis he feared he would not be paid.

المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald

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