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Povey company in court
Court action. Mark Povey in 1985.

A cleaning company owned by 1980s high-flyer Mark Povey, who was once worth $40 million, is facing court over allegedly underpaying six foreign cleaners about $22,500.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is prosecuting the business formerly known as Housekeeping Pty Ltd for underpaying the workers within three months in late 2011 and early last year, among several other matters.

The FWO alleges the full-time employees did not get lunch breaks, overtime rates, annual or sick leave or superannuation and were not paid for every hour of work.

It accused the company of delaying wages for new employees two to four weeks as a so-called "employment bond" in case they owed money on termination.

It is prosecuting Mr Povey's wife, Catherine Paino-Povey, alleging she was the manager at the time.

Workplace Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said he was prosecuting because of the amount owing and the vulnerability of the staff, including a Chinese worker with little English.

Mr Povey, who drove a Rolls-Royce in his early 20s but was bankrupted after his petrol empire fell apart, said he would defend the charges.

He accused the FWO of pursuing him unfairly and disputed the employees were subject to the Cleaning Services Award. "I am by no means an idiot or someone who doesn't know what the law is," he said.

He said Housekeeping Pty Ltd was renamed ACN 146 435 118 Pty Ltd in June 2012 but had ceased to operate.

He said his wife had been an employee, not a manager, and was with another company called Housekeeping that was not involved in the case.