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Oswal wife says ANZ 'had gun at my head'

AAP logoAAP 16/08/2016 By Megan Neil

By Radhika Oswal's reckoning, the ANZ bank effectively "had a gun at my head" after threatening she and her husband could be jailed for fraud and their two daughters left as orphans.

There was no other option but to agree to the bank's demands that she personally assume liability for almost $US1 billion in Indian businessman husband Pankaj Oswal's debts, Mrs Oswal has told a court.

"There was no other way out. I had a gun at my head," Mrs Oswal told the Victorian Supreme Court on Wednesday.

After Mrs Oswal's testimony blaming two senior ANZ executives for pressuring her into taking on her husband's debts, the Oswals and the bank were on Wednesday afternoon back in talks about a possible settlement of the complex legal case.

Mrs Oswal's cross-examination by the bank's barrister was delayed until Thursday amid the talks over the former Perth couple's up to $2.5 billion lawsuit over the sale of their Australian fertiliser business.

The judge-only trial has heard Mr Oswal admitted being involved in forging European loan guarantees used to get $US928 million from the ANZ for the Burrup ammonia plant in Western Australia.

Mrs Oswal baulked when the bank wanted her to guarantee her husband's debts using her 35 per cent stake in Burrup Holdings, before agreeing to be personally liable for $US568 million in debts.

Amid heated discussions in December 2009, Mrs Oswal's lawyer Grant Pestell told ANZ group general counsel Bob Santamaria she would still not sign anything.

"Bob Santamaria said to Grant do you realise that both of them could go to jail and their children would become orphans," Mrs Oswal told the court.

Mrs Oswal said then ANZ chief risk officer Chris Page told her there were people at the bank who believed she was involved all along, which she denied, and she too could go to jail.

She said her husband did not want the bank to expose his role in the fraud, nor did the bank want it to come out.

She said Mr Page told her: "If we wanted this to come out don't you think that we would have already reported the matter and sent Pankaj to jail?"

Part of Mrs Oswal's duress case involves claims that Mr Page had Mr Oswal in a headlock while the men were alone during the meetings on Sunday, December 20, 2009.

Mrs Oswal said her husband told her Mr Page was very angry and had said: "We must sign the documents. We bloody well sign the documents or there's going to be big trouble."

Mrs Oswal said lawyer Darren Greenham said he saw Mr Page with his arm around Mr Oswal's neck, towering over him, but straightened up when the lawyer walked in.

Mr Page denies the allegations and Mr Oswal will not give evidence in court.

The ANZ ended up demanding it be repaid under Mrs Oswal's guarantee and appointing receivers to the Burrup business in December 2010.

The Oswals fled Australia hours after talks with the bank finished, to avoid Mr Oswal facing jail.

"If he was in Australia there was no way to keep him safe," Mrs Oswal said.

"We left because we were that scared."

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