Trinidad: TT$1B in Duprey assets frozen

-after Bahamas firm owed debt unearths T&T sell-off plan

(Trinidad Guardian) Busi­ness ty­coon Lawrence Duprey has been blocked by the High Court from dis­pos­ing of over TT$1 bil­lion in as­sets, in­clud­ing three mega es­tates and a lo­cal in­sur­ance com­pa­ny, af­ter a freez­ing in­junc­tion was sought by the com­pa­ny’s for­mer sub­sidiary in The Bahamas over a failed land de­vel­op­ment in Flori­da.

This new in­junc­tion grant­ed by Jus­tice Ricky Rahim to British Amer­i­can In­sur­ance Com­pa­ny (BAICO), blocked Duprey from at­tempt­ing to sell off Mo­tor One In­sur­ance Com­pa­ny and over 700 acres of land that fell un­der the for­mer CL Fi­nan­cial boss.

The pro­ceed­ings stat­ed that Gary Du­mas, an­oth­er one of Duprey’s busi­ness part­ners, con­firmed that sale of a valu­able co­coa es­tate was dis­cussed with a for­eign buy­er and that Duprey was in the coun­try for a short time which co­in­cid­ed with the sale of the land.

Lawrence Duprey

“Mr Duprey’s al­leged rea­son for be­ing in Trinidad, ie, to sign pa­pers for an ap­peal is un­con­vinc­ing. His sig­na­ture would not be re­quired to file an ap­peal,” BAICO lawyers said in the in­junction.

Du­mas, BAICO said, has al­so con­firmed the sale of small­er pieces of land.

BAICO claims a “se­ries of com­plex cor­po­rate struc­tures and trans­ac­tions de­signed to de­feat cred­i­tors” show that Duprey and his part­ners con­spired to avoid the op­er­a­tion of the law.

Duprey and the oth­er play­ers in this mat­ter could face a fine or im­pris­on­ment if the freez­ing in­junc­tion grant­ed in the mat­ter is breached.

The in­junc­tion freez­ing Duprey’s lo­cal as­sets was ob­tained against him by BAICO’s lawyers late in Oc­to­ber and now gives him very lit­tle con­trol over what was once his vast wealth. Ac­cord­ing to the new terms of this in­junc­tion, Duprey is al­lowed some US$500 per week as liv­ing ex­pens­es and the ju­di­cial man­ag­er of BAICO must ap­prove any le­gal ex­pense be­fore it is in­curred. The freez­ing in­junc­tion on Duprey re­mains en­forced un­til he makes good on a US$122 mil­lion pay­ment owed to BAICO or un­til the in­junc­tion is dis­charged.

In the in­junc­tion, BAICO’s at­tor­neys said they were con­cerned that Duprey was try­ing to sell off por­tions of his as­set base to di­min­ish the ap­pear­ance of his hold­ings in or­der to avoid a court-or­dered re­pay­ment of the US$122 mil­lion to the in­sur­ance com­pa­ny.

BAICO had sued Duprey in 2009 for a breach of fidu­cia­ry du­ty over the com­pa­ny’s in­vest­ment in the Green Is­land re­al es­tate de­vel­op­ment in Osce­o­la Coun­ty, Flori­da. BAICO filed a US-based law­suit against Duprey over a soured deal which saw the com­pa­ny los­ing some US$100 mil­lion and go­ing in­sol­vent. BAICO had in­vest­ed $US295 in the re­al es­tate de­vel­op­ment led by Duprey and when CL Fi­nan­cial col­lapsed it took BAICO with it.

BAICO was forced to file the lo­cal pro­ceed­in­gs against Duprey to move against as­sets in this coun­try af­ter he moved back to Trinidad and To­ba­go with­out pay­ing the US court-or­dered dam­ages. The lo­cal ac­tion was re­quired as there is no leg­is­la­tive arrange­ment for the reg­is­ter­ing of US judge­ments in T&T.

In an over 200-page court doc­u­ment ob­tained by Guardian Me­dia, Duprey ad­mits to the ju­di­cial man­ag­er of BAICO that he and his wife moved “var­i­ous as­sets” to an­oth­er com­pa­ny be­long­ing to Carl­ton Reis. The de­tails of the trans­ac­tions are an in­tri­cate web of deals and as­set trades be­tween Duprey, Reis and Gary Du­mas.

“Duprey and his wife al­so ad­mit­ted that they moved var­i­ous as­sets be­long­ing to Mr Duprey to Reis Fi­nan­cial and Carl­ton Reis, the di­rec­tor of the Duprey Com­pa­nies pur­suant to an arrange­ment where­by Mr Duprey would still re­ceive mon­ey from those as­sets with­out legal­ly own­ing them,” the court doc­u­ment said.

Duprey is now al­so in dis­pute with Reis Fi­nan­cial about the own­er­ship of the Duprey Com­pa­nies, al­leged­ly be­cause “Reis and Reis Fi­nan­cial have de­cid­ed to take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion and breach the terms” of their ex­ist­ing arrange­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, the for­mer busi­ness part­ners are now at odds over the own­er­ship of as­sets but BAICO is ques­tion­ing whether this fric­tion be­tween the two is re­al or de­signed to cre­ate the im­pres­sion of a fall­out.

“Giv­en Mr Duprey’s pre­vi­ous con­duct of be­ing will­ing to move as­sets to Reis Fi­nan­cial to hide his true own­er­ship, BAICO have con­cerns and wish to in­ves­ti­gate whether the dis­pute be­tween Mr Duprey and Reis Fi­nan­cial and/or Mr Reis is gen­uine or a smoke­screen to fur­ther their pri­or du­plic­i­ty,” the court doc­u­ment stat­ed.

“While in the short time since ob­tain­ing the or­der, no sale has been iden­ti­fied, BAICO re­lies on the fol­low­ing ev­i­dence that there may be a sale in progress or un­der ne­go­ti­a­tions,” the doc­u­ment added.

“Im­por­tant­ly, Mr Reis states in the Reis af­fi­davit that he and Reis Fi­nan­cial are in dis­cus­sions to sell Mo­tor One, one of Duprey’s com­pa­nies. It is clear that Mo­tor One will be sold if the Or­der is dis­charged which will re­sult in yet an­oth­er as­set be­ing dis­si­pat­ed and the funds pre­sum­ably trans­ferred out of the reach of BAICO.”

The in­junc­tion, lodged back in Oc­to­ber on be­half of BAICO, al­so bars Duprey’s cur­rent and for­mer busi­ness part­ners, Du­mas and Reis, from dis­pos­ing of as­sets be­long­ing to eight of Duprey’s com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing his hold­ings in Mo­tor One In­sur­ance Com­pa­ny, Stech­ers Ltd and more than 700 acres of agri­cul­tur­al land.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, BAICO be­lieved Duprey trans­ferred shares to Reis Fi­nan­cial “as part of a scheme by Mr Duprey to trans­fer as­sets out of his own­er­ship to third par­ties to hold on trust or as nom­i­nee for him in or­der to frus­trate at­tempts by cred­i­tors to seize his as­sets.”

The pro­ceed­ings state that at a meet­ing, both Duprey and Du­mas ac­knowl­edged that the is­sue of 49,999 shares in Prism Agri to Du­mas was not a “gen­uine arms-length trans­ac­tion.”

“It was un­der­tak­en to give the im­pres­sion that Duprey was no longer the ma­jor­i­ty share­hold­er in Prism Agri,” the law­suit con­tests.

The law­suit al­so con­tests that Du­mas did not pay Duprey for the shares trans­ferred to his name.

In the doc­u­ment, Duprey and his wife al­so ad­mit­ted that they moved some of his as­sets to Reis Fi­nan­cial and made Reis the di­rec­tor of the Duprey Com­pa­nies “pur­suant to an arrange­ment where­by Mr Duprey would still re­ceive mon­eys from those as­sets with­out legal­ly own­ing them.”

“BAICO be­lieves this was plain­ly an­oth­er at­tempt to frus­trate any at­tempt BAICO might take to en­force against Duprey’s as­sets”

Ac­cord­ing to the court doc­u­ments, the freez­ing in­junc­tion bars sale or dis­pos­al of any as­sets as­so­ci­at­ed with Dal­co Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny Ltd, La Maraqui­ta De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny Ltd, e llus­tri­um Ltd, In­dus­tri­al Com­mer­cial De­vel­op­ment (T’dad) Ltd, Mo­tor One In­sur­ance Com­pa­ny Ltd, Stech­ers Ltd and Collt­wofour Ltd.

The pro­hi­bi­tion al­so in­clud­ed Duprey’s pri­vate res­i­dence in Mar­aval.

700 acres of land part of vast as­sets

In a sep­a­rate af­fi­davit, Reis con­tra­dict­ed Duprey and said that he paid him fair­ly for the shares in Duprey’s com­pa­nies.

Reis said the ma­jor­i­ty share­hold­ing in Duprey’s Dal­co Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny Ltd was trans­ferred to Reis Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Ltd le­git­i­mate­ly through a share sale agree­ment back in Feb­ru­ary 2014 for some $3.5 mil­lion.

Duprey’s ma­jor­i­ty shares in Prism Trust and Fi­nance were trans­ferred to Reis Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices for some $12 mil­lion and Duprey’s oth­er one or­di­nary share in e llus­tri­um, the com­pa­ny that op­er­ates Stech­ers, was trans­ferred to Reis Fi­nan­cial for $3 mil­lion.

Reis al­so pro­vid­ed de­tails on the over 700 acres of agri­cul­tur­al lands which are part of the lien.

In that doc­u­ment, Reis said that the La Maraqui­ta Es­tate is ap­prox­i­mate­ly 150 acres and was last val­ued at $13.5 mil­lion. The Ca­nary Es­tate is ap­prox­i­mate­ly 121 acres and was last val­ued at $1.4 mil­lion, the Hen­ry Es­tate in Moru­ga is ap­prox­i­mate­ly 512 acres and list­ed at $12 mil­lion. Reis al­so de­tailed two oth­er es­tates – Pen­land and one lo­cat­ed in Wood­brook – but was un­able to pro­vide any val­u­a­tions on those prop­er­ties.

“I am in­struct­ed that La Maraqui­ta Es­tate and Pen­land Es­tate are cur­rent­ly the sub­ject of sev­er­al ac­tions be­fore the court be­tween Prism Trust, Kall­co Ltd, Mo­tor One In­sur­ance Com­pa­ny Lt, Reis Fi­nan­cial Ltd, a com­pa­ny called La Maraqui­ta De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny, Pen­lands Es­tate De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny Ltd and oth­ers,” Reis said.

He said the lands in Moru­ga was sub­ject to squat­ters and statu­to­ry ten­an­cies.

The Re­spon­dents to the freez­ing in­junc­tion are to file fur­ther ev­i­dence by Jan­u­ary 2019 with the mat­ter ad­journed to Jan­u­ary, 18, 2019. Lawyers from JD Sel­l­i­er and Com­pa­ny, Bryan Mc Cutcheon and An­dre Rud­der, rep­re­sent BAICO.

 

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