Judge halts sale of Anchor

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The Independent Online
CUSTOMS AND Excise won a High Court order yesterday to stop the New Zealand dairy giant Anchor Foods selling its assets to avoid an alleged pounds 270m import duties bill.

But Customs had to give Mr Justice Neuberger an undertaking to pay damages to Anchor if the firm eventually won the action and showed it had suffered losses. The judge also granted leave to both parties to take his rulings to the Court of Appeal.

Anchor, a wholly-owned UK subsidiary of the New Zealand Dairy Board, wanted to sell all its assets for pounds 9m to a new NZDB company in the UK created for the purpose.

Customs claim this is a "gross undervaluation" of Anchor, designed to leave behind the import duties debt. Its own accountants have valued Anchor at pounds 30m to pounds 100m.

The judge told Anchor, which is to challenge Customs' demand for import duties, to provide more information on its value to Customs. If there was any reconsideration of the value, the accountants em-ployed by Customs would be under a duty to tell the court.

Mr Justice Neuberger saidhe was "sceptical" about the Anchor valuation evidence from the Customs accountants.