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CLF shareholdersblanked fromwinding up case

Published: 
Thursday, September 14, 2017

DEREK ACHONG

A group of CL Financial (CLF) shareholders have been barred from making submissions in opposition to Government’s winding up petition for the company.

High Court judge Kevin Ramcharan dismissed an application from CLF majority shareholder Lawrence Duprey and a group of minority shareholders, who were seeking to enter the case before it was due to begin at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, yesterday morning.

Ramcharan said that the group was unable to present evidence which showed that the company was not insolvent, as claimed by the Government.

Within minutes of the decision, Duprey’s lawyer Navindra Ramnanan indicated that the rest of his legal team had almost simultaneously filed a notice of appeal challenging it.

Ramnanan requested that Ramcharan stay the proceedings pending the determination of the appeal, for which a hearing would be set once it is officially filed within the next couple of days.

The suggestion drew immediate objection from the Government’s lawyer Deborah Peake, SC, who described their haste in filing the appeal as remarkable.

“It appears that they came to court today, knowing that their application was doomed to fail and this is what they were working on,” Peake said.

Ramcharan eventually dismissed the request for the stay as he suggested that Ramnanan make the application to the Court of Appeal when the appeal is filed.

As the shareholders’ attempt to enter the case occupied the majority of the hearing, Ramcharan was only able to listen to brief submissions from Peake on the petition before he was forced to adjourn the case to Friday morning.

Peake noted that the petition was filed in July as the Government moved to recoup CLF’s $15.6 billion debt, used to bail-out its subsidiary Clico since 2009.

She stated that in addition to the debt to Government, CLF also owes its subsidiaries and other creditors over $4 billion.

According to a report from provisional liquidator Marcus Wide, who was appointed to take control of CLF in July, the company currently only has $90 million in its management accounts.

Questioned by Ramcharan over whether the Government had agreed a time-line for repayment with CLF when it signed agreements with it, Peake said no.

She said the Government was still entitled to wind up the company and sell its assets to repay its creditors, as it was convinced that it would not be able to change its financial position by being allowed to continue to operate.