YESHIVA Centre (Sydney) spiritual leader Rabbi Pinchus Feldman (pictured) and Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman were given a “stay of execution” by the NSW Supreme Court this week.
Only two weeks after The AJN revealed that Yeshiva had debts of more than $30 million, it was disclosed in court that the Feldmans had failed to pay a court-ordered debt and that, as a result, Henry Kinstlinger, a former director of their previous school – Yeshiva College in Dover Heights – had committed the act of bankruptcy.
In March last year, the court ordered the Feldmans to pay Kinstlinger’s tax liability of more than $500,000, which stemmed from Yeshiva College in 2003.
The Feldmans had paid more than $150,000 of that liability in instalments to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), but recently failed to maintain the payments and the ATO took action against Kinstlinger.
He has now committed the act of bankruptcy and the ATO added interest to the tax liability, so Kinstlinger took legal action against the Feldmans to recover the rest of the liability.
The total amount outstanding that is payable to the ATO is $542,161.90, and NSW Supreme Court Associate Justice Philip Hallen found that the Feldmans are liable for the debt. However, he gave them a stay of execution for four weeks to try and negotiate with the ATO to lower the amount or resume an instalment plan.
But the case wasn’t as simple as that. The Feldmans’ lawyer argued in court on Monday that his clients shouldn’t have to pay the extra charges from the ATO. He said that despite the extra charges being added because the Feldmans didn’t meet their legal obligations, they were not responsible.
Justice Hallen, who seemed frustrated and confused at times, said that defence was “beyond belief”.
“Again I go back to the question. It is seriously put, that having not complied with their obligations, that the ATO would do nothing? Is that what they are saying?” Hallen said.
The Feldmans’ lawyer said he was unable to answer.
Kinstlinger’s lawyer also alleged in court that he had been informed that the Feldmans were disposing of real-estate assets.
Yeshiva spokesperson and Rabbi Feldman’s son, Rabbi Eli Feldman, did not deny that properties were being sold when asked by The AJN. He also didn’t deny that his parents’ actions had forced Kinstlinger to commit the act of bankruptcy.
The Feldmans have until August 17 to come to an arrangement with the ATO or Justice Hallen said he will order that the full amount be paid to Kinstlinger.
Rabbi Eli Feldman didn’t respond when asked by The AJN if his parents would be able to make the payments, if necessary, on August 17.