The future of Recharge Industries’ ambition to build a battery ‘gigafactory’ near Geelong remains mired in uncertainty after its parent company Scale Facilitation’s local office was raided by the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce last month, and promised funding failed to materialise.
The company is yet to submit planning or environmental assessment applications for the gigafactory site at Avalon Airport in Geelong, while staff and contractors at the company have reportedly gone unpaid.
An email to Scale Facilitation’s US-based staff by founder David Collard in May blamed payroll delays on the firm’s acquisition of collapsed UK battery firm Britishvolt, delays in converting receivables to cash, and “trapped cash in India”, but the issues have reportedly persisted.
Recharge Industries employs 160 people across four countries, including around 50 in Australia. It’s New York-based chief financial officer Shankar Raman left the company last week, while Scale Facilitation has lost its managing director and general counsel this year.
When asked about ongoing reports of unpaid staff, contractors and leases, a spokesperson for Recharge Industries declined to comment.
On June 23, Scale Facilitation’s Geelong offices were searched by the Australian Federal Police on behalf of the inter-agency Serious Financial Crime Taskforce as a part of an investigation into “alleged taxation fraud”, according to an AFP spokesperson. The company denies any wrongdoing.
The company has previously said Scale would “fully cooperate with legal and other advisors to defend any matters arising from these discussions”, but declined to comment further on the “ongoing matter”.
Ahead of the raid, the firm pivoted its staff to focus on accelerating the development of a gigafactory in the United Kingdom, acquired in February from bankrupt battery firm Britishvolt, as it already had planning permission, designs, existing infrastructure, and offtake agreements secured.
Recharge Industries is yet to receive a $10 million Trailblazer grant from Deakin University, as reported by InnovationAus.com last month, more than a year after it was announced.
A Deakin spokesperson declined to comment further on the status of the grant following the AFP raids last month when contacted by InnovationAus.com.
Deakin finalised its grant agreement with the Department of Education in late 2022, with the full $50 million to be paid in instalments by 2025-26 upon the completion of milestones.
A Department of Education spokesperson said the details of each Trailblazer grant, including milestone activities, financial information, and partnership arrangements, are confidential.
The department is required to approve “any changes or variations” to the grant.
The status of Recharge Industries collaboration with Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A2I2) is also unclear, with a spokesperson from the firm declining to comment.
Scale Facilitation had also previously committed $10 million to set up an artificial intelligence and machine learning co-lab at Deakin’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A2I2). However, references to this have been removed from the A2I2 website.
In December 2022, the firm opened its global headquarters on the 82nd floor of the One World Trade Center in New York. Recharge Industries is based in Geelong.
The opening of the global headquarters was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence minister Richard Marles, as well as Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who had his New York flight and accommodation paid for by Scale.
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