Parris lawyers object to Justice Cornelius presiding over his case
Nearly one month after former CLICO head-honcho Leroy Parris filed an affidavit in the High Court seeking to unfreeze millions of dollars in personal assets, his case remains in serious limbo, with no firm date set for hearing of the controversial matter.
In fact, the entire chapter is proving to be a highly dramatic legal imbroglio, with two judges already forced to recuse themselves from the process, and a third, who was only assigned today, now facing strong objection from Parris’ legal team.
First to step aside was Justice William Chandler. However, it was only after hearing the initial application that Justice Chandler decided that he would no longer continue to preside over the Parris affidavit, as the judicial officer who is also in charge of hearing the substantive CLICO judicial manager’s case.
It then fell to Justice Randall Worrell to take forward the matter, but he immediately asked to be excused on the grounds that his wife is employed by Scotiabank, which has terminated its accounts with Parris’ company, Branlee Consulting Services.
Barbados TODAY also understands that a formal letter of complaint was dispatched to Chief Justice, Sir Marston Gibson, earlier today after Parris’ attorneys, including Hal Gollop, QC, Vernon Smith, QC, Michael Yearwood and Steve Gollop, were officially notified that Justice Jacqueline Cornelius would preside over the case.
The objection was filed on the grounds that Cornelius’ husband, Ralph Thorne, QC, appeared on an Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) platform last month where he made a number of public declarations about CLICO.
For one, Thorne declared that issues surrounding the collapsed insurance giant were for those seeking to pick the flesh off the dead. And in the context of “ruses” and “trickery”, Thorne also contended that illegal activity had occurred at CLICO and the police should intervene in the process.
“This royal mess, this unholy mess has now been reduced to a job for scavengers. That is what CLICO is,” Thorne
However, when contacted today, one of Parris’ lead attorneys expressed strong concern about how his client was being treated by the legal system.
“This is clearly an injustice,” Gollop told Barbados TODAY.
While noting that there were “very limited choices left, with just three more judges in the assizes”, he said “we are very much in limbo after waiting for nearly a month after the return date of February 16”.
However, it has not been all bad news for the Parris team to date.
Gollop confirmed that in the wake of a High Court order issued on January 27, Scotiabank had “erroneously” frozen all of his client’s assets; therefore the bank has had to make an adjustment.
“All they were entitled to freeze was $4.5 million and they went on and froze much more than that,” Gollop explained.
However, in his affidavit, which is yet to be heard by the court, the former CLICO chairman is claiming that he is still owed $6.5 million.
“[CLICO Financial Analyst] Trudy White, who is one of the persons interviewed by the judicial managers [at Deloitte Consulting], had set out a detailed statement of account showing that they had already paid $3.3 million and they were paying about $30,000 a month.”
Those payments were officially stopped on November 24, 2010, even though Parris’ lawyers have produced at least three pieces of correspondence in support of his payments.
One is a letter written by Lawrence Duprey, former chairman of CLICO’s Trinidad parent company, CL Financial, on December 5, 2002 in which he gave a commitment to Parris that a lump sum payment in the amount of US$5 million would be made to him by January 31, 2011.
The amount is also spelt out in Parris’ employment contract dated May 15, 2005 as gratuity, as well as in a June 18, 2010 letter, written to Parris by then acting Chairman Terrence Thornhill following a query made by Parris about bonus and other outstanding amounts.
These decisions were also approved and ratified by the board of CLICO Holdings (Barbados) Limited in a unanimous resolution in writing on May 15, 2005.
However, in its just unsealed June 2013 forensic report, the judicial managers said they had found no approval of this agreement.
They specifically made mention of the board’s resolution, dated May 15, 2005, saying it had signatures next to the names of Mr Woodbine Davis, Mr Anthony Ellis, Mr Leslie Haynes and Mr Vishnu Ramlogen and appeared to have also been signed by Mr Parris and the Corporate Secretary, but not Mr Thornhill.
However, a copy of that resolution obtained by Barbados TODAY was indeed signed by Thornhill in his capacity as a member of the CLICO Holdings board.