A property development company has won a legal victory in its bid to purchase 16 acres of land from a subsidiary of CL Financial (CLF).
In an 18-page judgement in a procedural appeal brought by Select Properties Ltd, on Thursday, Appellate Judges Allan Mendonca and Andre Des Vignes ruled that High Court Judge Kevin Ramcharan made an error when he refused the company’s application to stay his previous decision to block the sale.
Des Vignes, who wrote the judgement, said although the company was not a CLF shareholder, it could have still intervened in CLF’s ongoing liquidation proceedings about the land as it had a sale agreement with CLF’s subsidiary Trincity Commercial Centre Ltd.
While the appeal panel ordered Ramcharan to reconsider his decision on the application to be heard, it did not compel him to make a specific decision on the sale.
According to evidence in the case, in January last year, Trincity Commercial Centre, a subsidiary of Home Construction Ltd (HCL), agreed to sell the land located at South Park, Tarouba, for $60 million. The company agreed to pay a 10 per cent deposit, which was to be refunded if the deal fell through.
Last June, Hugh Dickson and Marcus Wide, of international accounting firm Grant Thornton, who were appointed by Ramcharan when he approved the liquidation in 2017, applied to approve the sale. The application was refused by Ramcharan, who instead ordered the liquidators to advertise the property for sale to the highest bidder.
The company was refunded but opted to make the application to stay Ramcharan’s order and for the proceedings to be unsealed for it to view the previous application made by the liquidators.
Des Vignes said the company should have been served with the liquidators’ application and be allowed to make representations. He also said the decision to seal the file from the company was an error.
“We also find that the judge’s order to seal the file was disproportionate because by so doing he deprived the appellant—who had an equitable interest in the subject parcel of land by being a purchaser and a legitimate right to be heard on the joint liquidators’ application—sight of the application and supporting affidavit and any real and proper opportunity to be heard on the application,” Des Vignes said, as he ordered the disclosure.
Ramcharan was also ordered to list the company’s application for urgent hearing.
The decision comes less than a week after a group of CLF shareholders brought legal action against the Central Bank, Finance Minister Colm Imbert and the State over a decision to sell its subsidiaries Colonial Life Insurance Company (Clico) and British American Insurance Trinidad Ltd (BAT)
Last March, Imbert said two companies, Sagicor and Maritime, had bid for the companies, with Sagicor being considered the preferred bidder although its bid was $300 million lower than Maritime’s.
Through the lawsuit, the shareholders are also seeking an independent valuation of the companies.
Select Properties Ltd was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Alvin Pariagsingh, and Jared Jagroo. Bronock Reid represented CLF. The Office of the Attorney General was represented by Deborah Peake, SC, and Ravi Heffes-Doon.