NT Beverages founder and former chief executive Hugh Jones was declared bankrupt in March, according to the company’s liquidator’s report.
NT Beverages founder and former chief executive Hugh Jones was declared bankrupt in March, according to the company’s liquidator’s report.

NT Beverages boss ‘bankrupt’: Liquidator

AUSTRALIAN taxpayers will be on the hook to pay back $190,000 in unpaid wages and superannuation to employees of failed taxpayer-backed water bottling company NT Beverages.

A report into the company's financials by liquidator KPMG showed a further $7.6 million is owed to the Northern Territory Government through its now defunct investment arm NT Infrastructure Development Fund.

According to the report, neither the employees nor the NT Government are likely to be paid the money owed to them from NT Beverages.

The out-of-pocket employees are in the process of making claims for their unpaid wages through the Commonwealth's Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme.

But the bulk of the money owed to the workers is unpaid superannuation, which they are unable to claim back through the FEG scheme.

There may be some scope for employees to recover unpaid superannuation through the Australian Taxation Office.

Twelve staff were stood down when the company - which spruiked the "incredible health benefits" of its Akuna Springs and Akuna Blue water products - folded in December last year.

The liquidator's report reveals the bottling company's founder and former chief executive Hugh Jones was declared bankrupt in March, the same day he presented his own debtor's petition against the company he once controlled.

The liquidator found Mr Jones may have engaged in an "unreasonable related director transaction" but given he has "no assets", there was no point in taking action to recover money from his trustee.

The potential "unreasonable" transaction allegedly occurred when the company provided a secured loan to a computer software start-up of which Mr Jones was also a director and chief executive.

The company, which has since been sold to Refresh Waters for $3.8 million, received a $10 million loan from the NTIDF in February 2018 at a time it was already deep in financial strife.

NT Beverages was the only company to receive money from the NTIDF, which Treasurer Nicole Manison shut down late last year, with some of the money used to pay off the Government's ballooning debt.

According to the report, the business failed because of "poor strategic management" by former officers, inadequate cash flow and the inability to obtain new finance.

Attempts to contact Mr Jones since NT Beverages went into administration have failed.