A reported $87 million tax debt has lead Rex D’Aquino to place his company Fernbrew Pty Ltd under administration.
Hall Chadwick Chartered Accountants has been named the administrator, while customers of the drinks company have been instructed not to pay Fernbrew or the D’Aquino Group of Companies, but to send funds directly to the Australian Taxation Office.
One customer, who declined to be named, told the Central Western Daily the company owed up to $87 million and 600 letters of demand had been sent out.
It’s been a rocky 12 months for D’Aquino. Another of his companies, D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd — based at the same address as Fernbrew — is also fighting a lawsuit brought by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
The SWA took legal action against D’Aquino Brothers in July last year, following allegations it is selling fake Scotch.
The liquor in question was being served as ‘house spirits’ in bars and pubs, and sold in independent liquor stores in cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The SWA sued the company “for infringement of our trademark ‘Scotch whisky’”.
“The SWA takes the protection of Scotch whisky extremely seriously,” a SWA spokesperson said. “Wherever the legal requirements that govern the production of Scotch are not being upheld, we will take action.”
“Liquor and Gaming NSW will liaise with both regulators and assist with inquiries where appropriate.”
Mexico’s tequila regulator, Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT), also said two of D’Aquino’s brands of tequila were are “not linked” to the industry: Blue Cactus Tequila (D’Aquino Bros) and Reeba Reeba (Fernbrew).
Mexico’s Ambassador to Australia, Eduardo Pena Haller, said: “We feel betrayed, because tequila was created in the state of Jalisco, and when somebody is producing tequila in another country then, well, they are cheating people.
“If you are buying tequila that does not follow that procedure, well then you’re just buying chemical substance.”
The administrators appointed to oversee Fernbrew Pty Ltd have confirmed to the Central Western Daily that they are looking at the wholesale and distribution aspects of Rex D’Aquino’s business.
“The company is engaged in the wholesale and distribution of alcoholic beverages,” a statement from Hall Chadwick said.
“The administrators are gathering information, dealing with major stakeholders and assessing the financial position of the company to determine the extent to which the company can continue to trade.”
D’Aquino Liquor Stores are still trading.