A property developer, Intercontinental Trading Ltd, has been denied permission to take to the Privy Council its challenge relating to the sale of prime commercial real estate in Trincity, owned by one of CL Financial’s subsidiaries, Home Construction Ltd.
In an oral decision, Justices of Appeal Mark Mohammed, Gillian Lucky and Mira Dean-Armorer denied conditional leave to Intercontinental Trading Ltd.
The judges also denied an application for a stay, saying there was nothing to justify one.
In September 2019, Justice Kevin Ramcharan aborted an attempt by HCL to sell the Trincity property and another in San Fernando. This followed concerns raised by Senior Counsel Deborah Peake on behalf of the Attorney General that there was a failure to properly advertise the highly valuable commercial properties.
Ramcharan issued an order denying permission to HCL to sell the two properties – one next to South Park Mall in San Fernando and the other adjacent to the Trincity Shopping Mall. The properties were valued at over $90 million.
The judge also directed CLF and its subsidiaries to “take such steps as are necessary for the advertisements of the two parcels of land.”
The initial sales agreement for the property, which made the grant of permission of the court a condition of the sale, was scrapped and the developers were reimbursed their ten per cent down payment.
Intercontinental then applied to Ramcharan to vary his order and grant permission for the sale to it.
It was argued at the appeal by the liquidators that Ramcharan's decision did not take into account that after the advertisement of the lands, there were bids higher than what Intercontinental initially negotiated for the property.
The appellate court upheld the liquidators’ appeal and held Ramcharan should have taken into account the higher bids.
Intercontinental filed an application for permission to appeal to the Privy Council which Justices of Appeal Mark Mohammed, Mira Dean-Armorer and Gillian Lucky denied on the ground that the appeal raised no genuinely disputable issue fit to go before the Judicial Committee.
Mohammed, who delivered the decision, agreed with Peake and attorney for the CLF liquidators, Bronnock Reid. He said although the agreed purchase price for the property to Intercontinental was in line with the market value, the purpose of the liquidation process was to ensure that the highest possible value is received for assets and that the interests of creditors, which is to ensure that debts of the company in liquidation are paid, are given priority over all other interests.
The judges also held that Intercontinental’s application to appeal to the Privy Council contained no public interest element to warrant the granting of conditional leave, adding that the fact it involves CLF did not translate into the issues of law raised in the proposed appeal being of great public importance.
Mohammed also held there was nothing to warrant the granting of a stay to restrain CLF from selling or leasing the property.
In 2017, sale agreements for subsidiaries of CLF were executed, which included the transfer of CLICO’s 29.9 per cent shareholding in Angostura Holdings and 30.1 per cent direct shareholding in HCL, to reduce CLICO’s indebtedness to the Government. CL Financial collapsed in January 2009 and the Government was forced to intervene to protect the financial system from being infected by the liquidity and solvency problems experienced by insurer CLICO and CLICO Investment Bank.
Over the years, CLF’s assets have been sold including its interests in energy companies, distilleries and shopping malls. CL Financial owns 51 per cent of CLICO, while the Government owns 49 per cent of the company. The Government also owns 14 per cent of CL Financial.
Ravi Heffes-Doon also appeared for the AG while Zelica Haynes Soo-Hon represented Intercontinental.