Businessman Brian Tiwarie, former owner of housing project Sunset Lakes, is seeking damages in excess of $300 million for what he says is the unlawful transfer of the 100 acres of land valued at US$8 million by the Registrar of Lands to Precious Metal Mines.
In a lawsuit filed against the Registrar, Precious Metals, Sunset Lakes, Citizens Bank, Nigel Hinds and another, Tiwarie is arguing that at the time of the sale and transfer of the lands, there existed, and still exists, a caveat in his favour, operating as a statutory bar to any such transfer.
In the circumstances, he is seeking a declaration, among others, that the Registrar of Lands acted beyond her powers and in violation of the Land Registry Act when she purported to register the transfer of the Sunset Lakes lands to Precious Metal Mines.
Located at Providence, East Bank Demerara, the housing development project was to have been a posh housing estate.
Describing himself in his affidavit as Incorporator and initially a Director of Sunset Lakes, Tiwarie, who said that he was also the sole shareholder and owner, explained that by written agreement on April 10, 2014, he sold all of his 1,000 shares to Hungbo Chu of Chinese logging company Baishanlin for US$8 million.
He said that upon signing the agreement, Chu paid a deposit of US$4 million. In that agreement, he said, were covenants prohibiting the land from being encumbered, or disposing of the shares without his permission.
According to Tiwarie, Chu breached the agreement by failing to pay the purchase price within the time stipulated and even thereafter, as a consequence of which he instituted court proceedings.
The applicant said that he also filed a caveat on March 16, 2016, restricting any dealings with, and its property thereof, until further notice.
Following the court action, Tiwarie said he entered into terms of settlement with Chu, by which he became immediately entitled to 50% of the shareholdings in Sunset Lakes, among other entitlements.
Subsequent to this new arrangement, the applicant said he learnt that the assets of Sunset Lakes were pledged to secure a loan from Citizens Bank by Chu in the latter’s capacity as director of Sunset Lakes, in direct breach of a fiduciary obligation under the new agreement, and as a result of the company’s apparent but unknown default, the company had been placed in receivership.
Thereafter, Tiwarie said he further learnt that Hinds (in his capacity as former receiver-manager of Sunset Lakes) sold all the property of Sunset on October 9, 2017, purportedly under the terms of the said receivership to Precious Metal Mines. This sale, he contends, was done in contravention of the statutory conditions and rights reserved by the caveat.
Tiwarie said that on November 14, 2017, his attorney wrote the Registrar of Lands, reminding her of his subsisting caveat, so as to preserve his rights thereunder. He, however, noted that the transfer of title was carried out regardless of, and despite the existence of the caveat.
The applicant has advanced that the Registrar was in breach of her duties to act competently, in good faith, and in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Land Registry Act, purported to wrongfully and illegally register the transfer of the lands to Precious Metal Mines.
Tiwarie argues that at all material times the respondents were aware of the existence of the caveat, as it remains on the books and in full force and effect. The caveat has not been removed from the register and is legally binding on the parties, he contends.
As a result, Tiwarie is arguing that the lands were never legally transferred to Precious Metal Mines.
Among the orders the applicant is hoping the court makes is to restrain the respondents and/or their servants from selling, disposing of, leasing or otherwise alienating the property, or from mortgaging, charging or encumbering it.
Additionally, he wants the court to direct the Registrar to set aside the certificate of title issued to Precious Metal Mines on October 26, 2017.
He is asking, too, that the Registrar be barred from accepting the registration, and/or in any way dealing with the property.
Included in the $300 million being sought by Tiwarie is $100 million against the respondents, all of whom he said have unlawfully caused him losses.
He wants $100 million for the fraud he alleged was committed by the respondents and an additional $100 million for their trespassing on the property.
In his application, Tiwarie says it was the Bank that purportedly appointed Hinds, (in his capacity as former receiver-manager of Sunset Lakes), under an alleged debenture executed in favour of the Bank itself.
Also listed as a respondent in the court documents is Harryram Parmesar, who is the substituted receiver or successor receiver appointed by the Bank over the lands belonging to Sunset lakes.
Tiwarie wants the court to declare the caveat legally binding on the respondents with the effect that it operated as a statutory bar to any transfer of the lands.
The matter is set for hearing on January 16 before Justice Franklyn Holder.
Tiwarie is being represented by a battery of attorneys, including Robin Stoby S.C., Mohamed Khan, Kashir Khan, Imtiaz Baig and Carmilita Jamieson.
In 2014, Baishanlin had promised some 400 luxury homes on its 100-acre gated community at Providence. However, with debts piling up and regulators clamping down on it, the project went bust. The planned housing scheme appears to have taken on significant local debt.
At what was dubbed the New Life Community project, houses were to start at $28 million and go all the way to $105 million.
Under the previous PPP/C administration, Tiwarie had signed an agreement via his Sunset Lakes Inc Company with the Central Housing and Planning Authority to purchase and develop the 100 acres of land at a cost pegged at $475 million.
In 2014, Tiwarie went into partnership with Chu where the latter would pay him US$8 million and develop the site. As part of the agreement, he would also get to keep some of the house lots in the gated community for his personal use.
However, Tiwarie took Chu to court in 2016 for the balance of US$4 million on the agreed purchase price. It is unclear if this matter has been settled.