‘Hot dispute’ in trust fund case

A US$14 million claim in a trust
fund lawsuit filed in Jamaica earlier this year was made on behalf of an
individual who is alleged to have “usurped” control of the company managing
that trust, the former chief executive officer of the company said last week.

Cayman Islands businessman Delroy
Howell has become embroiled in a complicated and potentially expensive legal
dispute over the fund managed by First Caribbean Financial Trust Company Ltd,
of which he was the chief executive officer until mid-April. Mr. Howell has
said the legal dispute occurred only after he was forced out of that trust
company.

The initial claim from 19 August
was made in a Jamaican court by First Financial Caribbean Trust Company Ltd and
was signed by a Judith Wilchcombe. It accused Mr. Howell and another First
Financial director, Kenarthur Mitchell, of transferring some of the funds
managed by the trust company to themselves and other businesses Mr. Howell
owned. 

Ms Wilchcombe was an employee of
First Financial Caribbean Trust Company Ltd and later became a director of that
company.

She stated in a court deposition
that she had requested and demanded of Mr. Howell information about, and a
return of, the trust fund monies “in the face of angry clients demanding their
money back”, court records show. 

Mr. Howell alleged in court
documents made public Friday that Ms Wilchcombe usurped the management
structure of First Financial, and that she was fully aware of the transfer of
various trust fund monies to other accounts or other business ventures.

Ms Wilchcombe denied that she was
aware of the transactions, according to court records.

“(Mr. Howell) says that the
transactions involved investments which were to the benefit of the trust until
the improper usurpation of the claimant’s (referring to First Financial Caribbean
Trust Company) management structure by Miss Wilchcombe,” a Jamaican judge wrote
in a 15 October judgment regarding an asset freezing order in the case. (See
Caymanian Compass, 18 October for more details)  

“It is…a matter of hot dispute
whether Messrs. Howell and Mitchell have been removed as directors (of First
Financial Caribbean Trust Company Ltd) and whether the shareholding has since
been adjusted, but that is for another forum to decide,” the judge wrote.

It has been reported in other media
that Mr. Howell has filed a claim in the Turks and Caicos Islands seeking to
correct the register of First Financial Caribbean Trust Company Ltd. First
Financial was formed in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2001.

The same Jamaican judge, in a
separate ruling from 1 October laid out some of the particulars of the alleged
“usurpation” of First Financial Caribbean Trust Company Ltd. 

“What occurred after January 2010,
with respect to the claimant’s (referring to First Financial) management
structure is also the subject of serious dispute,” according to the 1 October
ruling. “The result…was that, in the absence of Mr. Howell (the majority
shareholder and one of the three directors) and Mr. Mitchell, a shareholders’
meeting and a directors’ meeting were respectively held; purportedly convened
by the only other director and shareholder, Dr. Joseph Marzouca.”

Court records stated Ms Wilchcombe
attended these meetings, purportedly as the proxy for Dr. Marzouca, who is a
Cayman Islands resident.

“At the end of those meetings, Dr.
Marzouca’s shares had been transferred to Miss Wilchcombe, the shareholding of
(the company) had been increased, Miss Wilchcombe became the majority
shareholder and she and a Mr. Jose Vargas had been appointed the claimant’s
sole directors,” continued commentary from the 1 October ruling from the
Jamaican court.

Ms Wilchcombe has stated –
according to court records – that she authorised the 19 August claim against
Mr. Howell and Kenarthur Mitchell “when it was publicized that certain
companies in the First Financial Group were in the process of selling a money
remittance business”.

That money remittance business was
identified as QuikCash in the court records. The Caymanian Compass reported on
11 August that QuikCash was being sold to JN Money Services of Jamaica.

“According to Miss Wilchcombe, she
feared that the assets being sold represented the investment of trust monies
and that the proceeds of the sale would be dissipated if a freezing order were
not obtained,” the Jamaican judge wrote on 1 October.

However, the same judge stated
there was “very little” evidence of that last claim in writing the 15 October
judgment on the asset freezing order.

“On the matter of evidence of the
likelihood of the assets of the defendants (referring to Mr. Howell and Mr.
Mitchell) being dissipated, I find that the claimant (First Financial Caribbean
Trust Company Ltd) has produced very little by way of evidence in this regard,”
the Jamaican judge wrote. “It does not appear to me that this transfer is an
attempt to make the defendants judgment-proof.”

Mr. Howell has filed a counterclaim
against Ms Wilchcombe seeking “compensation for damage done to him personally
as a result of the imposition of the freezing order, and claims for
rectification of the situation whereby, he…became a minority shareholder”,
court records stated.

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