(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.
“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.