Tony Esposito 'lives it up' as dairy farmers battle on
TONY Esposito's company has left farmers millions of dollars out of pocket but he's living a luxurious lifestyle.
From partying on a yacht in the Gold Coast with his bikini-clad wife to his multi-million dollar mansion, Mr Esposito, once a successful dairy broker, is living it up while a number of Victorian dairy farmers suffer.
His glittering mansion has a swimming pool, a spiralling staircase, chandeliers and a garage to park his Maserati.
Dairy farmers on the other hand, have had to sell livestock just to make ends meet and stick to strict budgets.
According to ABC's 7.30 program, Mr Esposito is used to having it all. Delta Goodrem sang at his daughter's christening and he threw a $90,000 50th birthday party at the Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne. Despite his glamorous life, his dairy broker business, National Dairy Products, was going bust. Now, NDP owes about two dozen creditors $6.8 million.
Mr Esposito has denied any wrongdoing.
The company has so far not paid up, and there is no for sale sign outside his multi-million dollar mansion or on the windscreen of his luxury car.
Gippsland dairy farmer Alister Clyne told the ABC Mr Esposito was just "looking after number one".
He is owed $1.4 million and actually bought another farm across the road, thinking he could afford to.
"It's bloody hard," Mr Clyne said.
"I recently bought the farm across the road then all of a sudden all your income for two months gets stripped right out of your business."
He had to borrow more than $700,000 just to pay the bills.
His sister Fiona Plant also claims to be a victim who has not been paid by Mr Esposito.
She is owed about $500,000 and has had to make sacrifices to make up for the loss of income.
"It's a monumental challenge. We've culled about 250 cattle and sold young stock to try and get some cash flow to pay debts," she told 7.30.
"As far as the impact on our family, It's a really difficult situation."
Mr Esposito said he was devastated, and didn't set out to start a business, only to have it fail.
He claimed he paid farmers a high price for their milk, a loss that then came out of his own pocket when the dairy industry crashed in 2016.
ABC reports Mr Clyne and Ms Plant were part of a group of creditors that helped put National Dairy Products into liquidation last month.
"The assets he's built with our money needs to be liquidated and we need to recover whatever money we can get," Ms Plant said.
The liquidator discovered Mr Esposito's company didn't operate at a profit and he bought milk for more money than what he could sell it for.
The liquidator also claimed Mr Esposito withdrew $3.3 million from the company account.
He says however, he put $8 million into the company and took out the money to pay for debts.
Mr Esposito's former chief executive, Darryl Cardona, also claims he is owed money.
He told 7.30 he lent Mr Esposito $500,000 to put in the business.
"The situation was not of anybody's making other than Tony's," he said.
"And what we need is for him to fix up his mistakes and pay the money he owes to everybody."
Mr Cardona started working at the company towards the end of 2015, and he became concerned about the company's financial position when he noticed a farmer had not been paid the whole amount he was owed.
ABC also revealed four months before the company stopped trading, $325,000 was moved from the company's account into Mr Esposito's account, and payments to farmers bounced back.
Mr Esposito denies he did anything wrong, and that Mr Cardona lent him $500,000.
When Mr Esposito found out Mr Cardona spoke to the ABC, he also allegedly sent his former employee threatening messages.
"Hey you piece of f***ing s*** you want to make up bullshit about how you gave me a 500K loan to make farmers payment ..." he wrote in one text message.
"Watch your back c*** my day will come and your f****d your full of s*** (sic)."
Mr Esposito told the ABC he was angry when he wrote the messages because it was a lie.
The former milk king said to a degree, he felt like himself and his wife Violeta were the victims.
"Our intention was to never rip any farmers off, our intention was the pay them as much as we could and make them sustainable and that was even at our loss," he said.
About $20,000 left in the company account was transferred into Mr Esposito's personal account just hours before the company went bust.
"That money could've gone towards paying farmers," Mr Clyne said.
"I mean, it was only 20 grand. I was hanging out for $240,000 for my September cheque and you know I ... I can't really ... it's unfathomable ... I don't know."
There have been calls for Mr Esposito's company to be investigated in court and he welcomes the suggestion, saying he didn't do anything wrong.
He also told the ABC he would be prepared to sell his mansion in Brighton, a beachside suburb in Melbourne, and would pay back what he owed.
"Whether it takes six weeks, 12 months, two years, I don't care how long it takes, I want as much of our money back as we can get and I want to see him with a for sale sign on his mansion in Brighton," Ms Plant said.