Dudus’ assets seized; Gov’t facing legal action from relatives

(Jamaica Observer) The assets of former Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke were yesterday ordered forfeited to the State.

The order, made by Justice Lennox Campbell, comes more than two years after the assets were frozen when Coke was extradited to the United States to face gun and drug-running charges. He is now serving time in a US prison after pleading guilty to lesser charges last year.

Christopher `Dudus' Coke
Christopher `Dudus’ Coke

The order was made in default, as Coke was not represented in court to challenge the application which was made by the Government’s Asset Recovery Agency.

Coke’s assets include his business, Presidential Click Promotions Limited.

Meanwhile, the Asset Recovery Agency yesterday withdrew its claim for the forfeiture of the assets of businessman Justin O’Gilvie and his wife, as well as relatives of Coke.

Following the withdrawal, Justice Lennox Campbell gave O’Gilvie, his wife and Coke’s relatives permission to pursue damages resulting from their assets being frozen for more than two years.

O’Gilvie’s assets, including that of his companies, Incomparable Enterprises and Bulls Eye Security Services Limited, those of his wife Maxine; Coke’s mother, Patricia Halliburton (now deceased); and the mother of his child, Stephanie Gayle, were frozen in June 2010.

The assets were frozen following an application by the Assets Recovery Agency, which had claimed that the assets were given to Coke’s relatives and friends to launder.

Coke was, at the time, being pursued by law enforcement personnel to effect an arrest warrant for his extradition to the United States on drug and gunrunning charges.

At the same time, a battle is brewing between O’Gilvie and the National Commercial Bank (NCB), which has given him until January 29 to close the accounts of his businesses and those of this wife and children, his attorney Paul Beswick said.

Beswick told the Jamaica Observer that at the next court date on January 25 he will be seeking an order for the accounts to remain open.

According to the lawyer, he could not see why the bank would want to close the accounts as his client did nothing wrong. “Not a thing can be attributed to Mr O’Gilvie,” Beswick said. “He doesn’t even have a traffic ticket.”

According to the attorney, five other banks have refused to do business with his client and that O’Gilvie’s businesses would crash if NCB closed the accounts. He alleged that the alienation of his client was due to his “unfair” targeting by the Asset Recovery Agency and that there must be systems in place to prevent banks from closing people’s accounts without sufficient evidence. “Everybody is at risk,” Beswick said.

Last month, the High Court lifted the freeze on the assets, saying the agency had no case.

Beswick said last month that the two-year freeze had severely damaged O’Gilvie’s once-thriving businesses. He also blasted the Assets Recovery Agency for acting hastily to the detriment of his client, who has been a businessman for the past 25 years.

Yesterday, the court ordered that the Government pay the legal fees of the persons whose assets were unfrozen.

Attorney Chukwueneka Cameron, who is representing the estate of Halliburton and Gayle, said he was awaiting further instructions from his clients before proceeding with action to recover damages as a result of the action of the Assets Recovery Agency.

 

Carlene Grant (Trinidad Express photo)

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