Appeal Court to decide on million-dollar payout to CLF liquidators


TWO Appeal Court judges have reserved their decision on a challenge by the Government of a judge’s decision to approve the fees asked for by the joint liquidators of CL Financial (CLF) for their work.

After a virtual, oral hearing on Monday, Justices of Appeal Prakash Moosai and Charmaine Pemberton said they intended to give their decision on a date to be fixed as the matter required further deliberation on the authorities provided so as to give guidance on the process.

The Office of the Attorney General, on behalf of the Government – the principal creditor of CLF – appealed the decision of Justice Kevin Ramcharan who signed off on the request for payment by joint liquidators Hugh Dickson and David Holukoff, of international accounting firm Grant Thornton.

In her submissions, Deborah Peake, SC, representing the government, argued the judge failed to apply the law when he approved the payment of certain fees to the joint liquidators amounting to some $21 million in the first application for July 2017-December 2018.

A second application for payment of $22 million for 2019 was also submitted but this is still before the judge for approval and Peake said it was “imperative” for the appeal court to make it clear what the level of detail the liquidators are required to provide to the court in their requests for payment.

It is the Government’s position that the information provided by the liquidators to justify payment was insufficient and should have included time-sheets or bills.

“There is no information on hours or who performed the tasks. How it was broken down and who did the work.

She said at this rate, there will be little left to distribute to creditors unless the court ensures that the fees being asked for was reasonable.

“If it was their money they were spending, would they have spent it in that manner?

“They are sitting on millions of dollars in cash.”

In reply, the liquidators’ attorney, Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein, dismissed the AG’s arguments, saying the challenge was holding back the liquidation.

“They are not the only creditor.”

He said the Government’s original application to the judge was that no fees should be paid to the liquidator and then that position changed.

Hosein said the liquidators did what any responsible liquidator did which was to engage the creditor – or the government in this case – and ask what further information they wanted.

He said all questions raised were answered, lists of assets disposed of and directors’ fees were provided and suggestions were made for a meeting with the parties to respond to the Government’s concerns.

Hosein said the Government was still not satisfied and threatened, at least on two occasions, to approach the court for the liquidators’ removal.

“We have always said we would provide details. If you ask us for it, we will give it to you. It was never envisaged that that kind of detail is required for an assessment (for payment).”

Hosein said the strength and value of CLF were in its subsidiaries which had to be managed and put in a condition to be sold. The subsidiaries, he said, were in a “state.”

“A liquidator can’t say there is going to be a straight line in terms of expenses and that liquidation will be over in two years,” he said, adding that the fees complained of was actually discounted by 30 per cent/

“You cannot come to court and threaten to remove us when we have provided information and when we have said we are willing to cooperate.

“There are creditors larger than them (Government).”

The CLF conglomerate was put into liquidation in 2017 to clear its remaining debt arising from the multi-billion dollar bail-out by the government in 2009.

The Government is also being represented by Ravi Heffes-Doon and Romney Thomas, while Sasha Bridgemohansingh appeared alongside Hosein for the liquidators.

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