Ansa Merchant Bank’s freezing order against ex-employees, car dealers remains

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Frank Seepersad –

A freezing order against six roll-on/roll-off used car dealers and six former employees of Ansa Merchant Bank will continue until the trial of the matter as the bank seeks to recover $27 million allegedly defrauded in a bogus loan process.

On February 20, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that the injunction against six people and six companies would continue.

On October 2, 2023, Seepersad froze the assets of the six former employees of the bank and the dealerships to the tune of $27 million.

However, three days later, he discharged his order against the dealerships.

The bank appealed and the Court of Appeal continued the freeing orders against the companies and the matter returned to Seepersad who had to determine if the injunctions against all 12 should be continued until the trial in June.

In his ruling, Seepersad said the bank, at this stage, only had to prove a danger of dissipation of assets and he had to be careful not to conduct a mini-trial to determine liability.

“At this stage, there is prima facie evidence that the bank advanced sums on a loan the purpose of which was to acquire a vehicle which may not have existed.”

He said the bank’s evidence in support of the freezing orders, so far, had established its entitlement to having the injunctions remain in place until the matter goes to trial.

“Fraud is prevalent in this society and the court must protect private and corporate citizens against the deceitful conduct of fraudsters.

“As a consequence, a practical and pragmatic view of the evidence must be adopted and a critical, considered and cautious approach has to be engaged.”

In support of the freeing orders being removed, it was argued by the defendants’ attorneys that the bank failed to provide particulars of its case

The judge pointed out that only six of the defendants complied with a previous order to declare their assets which exceed $10,000. He heard applications by the bank to strike out the defences of the six because of non-compliance.

In its claim, the bank alleged it uncovered a complex web of alleged fraudulent loan transactions involving real property and no less than 35 vehicles. It said it sustained almost $30 million in losses over two and a half years.

The freezing order prevents all 12 defendants from disposing of, dealing with or diminishing the value of any of their assets or properties.

The bank alleges its former employees and the six dealerships engaged in a conspiracy to present fraudulent documents and/or make fraudulent representations to the bank for over $27 in loans.

It is also alleged the former employees breached the terms of their contracts and conducted themselves in a manner that was likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust between themselves and the bank.

The bank has also accused the defendants of wrongfully engaging in actions with intent to injure the bank and cause losses by unlawful means in the conspiracy to defraud and conceal their actions.

The claim also alleges because of conspiracy to defraud, each employee is liable to account for the misappropriated sums and liable for damages.