CLICO (Bahamas) squashes parent company's probe
By Jeffrey Todd
Guardian Business Editor
The U.S. attorney for CLICO (Bahamas) has successfully squashed CLICO (Trinidad)'s bid to investigate its activities in an ongoing liquidation.
Ronald G. Neiwirth, fresh off a hearing yesterday in West Palm Beach, Florida, said the motion for a protective order has been successful, effectively thwarting the parent company's move for discovery.
CLICO (Trinidad) requested a number of documents concerning CLICO (Bahamas), its wholly-owned subsidiary CLICO Enterprises and Florida-based real estate project Wellington Preserve.
Craig A. 'Tony' Gomez, a partner at Baker Tilly Gomez in Nassau, and court-appointed liquidator of CLICO (Bahamas), would have been questioned under oath had the discovery been successful.
CLICO (Bahamas) is now in the process of selling off parcels of land at Wellington Preserve as part of the entity's liquidation.
While the exact motivation behind the parent company's probe is unclear, Guardian Business understands that CLICO (Trinidad) hoped to monitor and perhaps claim the funds earmarked for CLICO (Bahamas), and subsequently Bahamian policyholders.
According to Neiwirth, if CLICO (Trinidad) wants to pursue a discovery of documents, it will now have to take it up with Bahamian courts.
"The general ruling is that the bankruptcy discovery rules don't extend to third-party problems," he said. "And this is really a quintessential third-party problem"
Neiwirth has called the probe by CLICO (Trinidad) an "utterly meritless effort" and "harassing."
The fact CLICO (Trinidad) is not a creditor of Florida-based Wellington Preserve is enough to demonstrate a lack of proper jurisdiction in the case.
The U.S. attorney said the discovery effort in the U.S. will now end, noting there is an "appropriate process" to ask for information in The Bahamas. That said, according to him CLICO Trinidad has purposely tried to circumvent The Bahamas, so it is unclear whether another discovery will come to fruition.
Neiwirth told Guardian Business that the discovery and subpoena have been distractions to the liquidation, and now that the matter is resolved, stakeholders can go back to business.
Wellington Preserve is considered to be prime farm and horse-raising land in Florida. In May, court documents revealed the successful sale of 138.3 acres of land to a well-known figure in the equestrian world.
The sale has raised $10 million, which will be transferred to the insolvent insurer's subsidiary, CLICO Enterprises.
A second sale, worth nearly $5 million, soon followed.
Neiwirth has previously stated that a total recovery of $40 million is indeed possible, which would be approximately 55 percent of what's owed to policyholders and creditors.
© 2012 The Freeport News