Asset freeze partly lifted in $14m trust fund case

A Jamaican judge on Friday partially
lifted an asset freezing order that had been in place since 19 August. The
order had restrained the use of nearly US$14 million by a Cayman Islands
businessman, an associate of his, and four companies.

The asset freeze was lifted on 15
October against former QuikCash owner Delroy Howell, as well Kenarthur Mitchell
and two companies Mr. Howell has a controlling interest in, First Financial
International Group Ltd and First Financial Caribbean (Holdings) Ltd.

The freeze order was maintained against
two other companies; First Financial Caribbean (Jamaica) Ltd and First
Financial Caribbean Ltd, but that freeze order applies only to US $1.7 million
worth of “admitted debt” – not the full US$13,911,092.15 sought in a claim made
earlier this year against Mr. Howell, Mr. Mitchell and the four business
entities.

That claim, filed on 19 August in the
Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica by First Financial Caribbean Trust
Company Ltd seeks to recover US$13,911,092.15 as well as damages from
defendants Mr. Howell, Mr. Mitchell and the four financial companies. Court
records stated Mr. Howell had a controlling interest in all those companies at
the material time of the claim.

Three of the companies are registered in
the Cayman Islands, which is Mr. Howell’s primary place of residence, according
to court records.

In addition to the nearly $14 million,
the claim also seeks unspecified damages for alleged breach of fiduciary duty,
alleged breach of contract and alleged fraud. Mr. Mitchell was a director of
First Financial Caribbean Trust Company Ltd until he resigned in February,
court records stated. Mr. Howell served as chairman and chief executive officer
of that company until his removal on 12 April, 2010, according to the claim.

“In breach of their fiduciary duties to
the claimant (referring to First Financial Caribbean Trust Company Ltd), in
breach of contract and fraudulently, Howell and Mitchell transferred the trust
funds to themselves and others including First Financial Jamaica, First
Financial Group, First Financial Caribbean and First Financial Holdings,” the
19 August court claim read. (See Caymanian Compass, 15 October for further
details)

Mr. Howell, who returned Compass calls
from earlier in the week seeking comment after the Jamaican court made its
ruling Friday, said he was illegally forced out of First Financial Caribbean
Trust Company Ltd.

That claim by Mr. Howell is the subject
of a separate court action in the Turks and Caicos Islands filed this month,
according to published reports.

The Jamaican judge, Justice Brooks, did
not deal with any of the claims regarding ownership of First Financial
Caribbean Trust Company Ltd in the freezing order ruling.

“The claimant (referring to First
Financial Caribbean Trust Company Ltd) has identified a cause of action against
the defendants (referring to Mr. Howell, Mr. Mitchell and the four companies),”
the judgment’s conclusion read. “The need for the recovery of the trust monies,
together with prima facie evidence of a failure to account to the claimant’s
auditors, when called upon, forms the basis of these findings.”

However, Justice Brooks ruled that there
was no need to continue to freeze the personal assets of either Mr. Howell or
Mr. Mitchell.

“I find it would be inappropriate to
continue or extend the freezing order against any of the other corporate
defendants, nor, indeed, Messrs. Howell or Mitchell,” the 15 October judgment
continued.