24 January 2024

Former Zambrero Griffith owner sued over alleged $133,000 tax debt

| Oliver Jacques
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Zambrero Griffith will remain open despite a resolved court case against the previous owner. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

The former owner of the Zambrero Griffith restaurant was sued by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and wound up in insolvency by a Federal Court of Australia order in 2023, an exclusive Region investigation has found.

While the local franchise of the Mexican fast-food chain remains in operation under a new owner, court documents reveal the ATO issued the previous franchisee, Zambos Griffith Pty Ltd, with a demand for payment for an alleged debt of $133,936.72 on 20 June, 2023.

Three months later, the ATO Deputy Commissioner made an application to the Federal Court alleging the company failed to pay this debt and requesting that Zambos Griffith be wound up in insolvency.

“The plaintiff [ATO] is suing in a representative capacity namely for and on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia,” the court application states.

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On 31 October, 2023, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the ATO, ordering the company be wound up in insolvency and that Melbourne-based business reconstruction specialist Stephen Michell be appointed liquidator of the company.

The Griffith outlet, however, did not close and continues to trade.

A spokesman for the nationwide Zambrero brand told Region the company’s head office ran the store for an interim period after the October 2023 court order and that a new franchisee took over in December 2023. This new owner has no connection to Zambos Griffith Pty Ltd and was not in any way involved with the court proceedings.

The spokesman also said the future operations of Zambrero Griffith would not be impacted by the now-resolved legal matter. Zambrero did not answer a question from Region on whether the head office was involved in the Federal Court case.

In 2023, it was reported that Zambrero outlets in Albury, Wodonga and Holbrook changed ownership after delays in supplier payments. The Holbrook store was subsequently closed.

The legal matters relating to the Griffith store were heard before the Federal Court because tax law is a federal matter. The registered address of Zambos Griffith is in the town of Gowanbrae, Victoria, so the case was contested in Melbourne.

An affidavit (a written statement to court) by an ATO representative stated the tax debt was for amounts due under Business Activity Statement (BAS) provisions, administrative penalties and a general interest charge.

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A BAS is a form registered businesses must submit to the ATO reporting on their tax obligations. No other details on the tax debt were provided in the court documents obtained by Region.

According to federal business regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Zambos Griffith Pty Ltd was first registered as a business in March 2016. The director is listed as a man named Mina Barsoum.

This company ran Zambrero Griffith, at 192 Banna Avenue, from the time it opened its doors to customers in January 2017 until October 2023. It was the first Mexican restaurant in the town.

The fast-food chain was founded in Canberra in 2005 by then-medical student Sam Prince, with the idea of using the profits to support humanitarian causes. It sells burritos, tacos, quesadillas and similar items.

Zambrero says it has more than 260 restaurants globally, including in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK and North America.

If you know more about this story, contact [email protected].

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