Businessman Winston Finzi, whose assets became entangled in the financial sector meltdown and rescue programme nearly three decades ago, has failed in a long-running bid to reclaim property from the American-owned company that acquired the Finsac debt.
Last Thursday, Jamaica’s final appellate court, the UK Privy Council, denied Finzi’s appeal after hearing arguments back in March.
The battle traced back to his dealings with Mutual Security Bank, including loans for property purchases. That bank’s assets and liabilities were taken over by National Commercial Bank Jamaica, NCB, which was one of the failing financial institutions bailed out by the government in the 1990s through Finsac.
The debt eventually fell into the hands of debt collector Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation Inc, JRF, in 2002, and the businessman began suing over the matter the following year but lost each time.
Property used as security for monies owed by the businessman was sold at auction in June 2005 for US$6 million, but while the net proceeds were used to reduce the debt of Finzi’s company, Jamaica Beach Park Limited, JRF contended thereafter that the company was still indebted for US$6 million and J$64.8 million.
In December of that year, in the wake of three lawsuits in which Finzi had tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent JRF from appointing receivers over property against which loans to Jamaica Beach Park were secured and from exercising its powers of sale, the debt collector responded with its own court action against Finzi to force his compliance with previous judgements of the court.
The court subsequently granted Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation a freezing order over Finzi’s assets, which was discharged after the businessman agreed to settle the debt for US$1.05 million.
Under the terms of a settlement agreed in 2011, JRF would also retain its equitable mortgage over one of Finzi’s properties called Providence as a continuing security for the amounts claimed in its 2005 lawsuit.
However, the debt had to be settled by the end of July 2013, otherwise JRF would be entitled to a payment of US$3.76 million, plus interest on the principal sum of around US$1.9 million.
Finzi did not repay the debt at the stipulated time, and, as allowed by the court settlement, JRF sold the Providence property for US$7 million in March 2015 to recover the debt.
The balance of US$2.165 million was paid over to Finzi, who had consented to the sale.
However, two years later, Finzi sought to reopen the court cases.
In February 2017, he sued JRF and seven others, seeking to reverse the series of judgements against him on grounds that the judgments and settlements were procured by fraud.
In response, the Supreme Court issued summary judgement dismissing the claim as an abuse of process. And the Court of Appeal refused permission for him to appeal that decision.
Still, Finzi was allowed to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision. So he took his case to the Privy Council.
Last week, on July 27, the Privy Council ruled that he had no case.
“The earlier proceedings were protracted, extending over many years, and Mr Finzi had all the information on which he now relies at least a year before he entered into the settlement agreement by which he released all present and future claims,” said the Privy Council judgment.
“Although judgment was entered against Mr Finzi on 4 June 2012 in the 2005 action apparently because of a procedural default, that judgment was set aside by consent … . No explanation has been offered for why he advanced a case in the 2004 action which was inconsistent with his case in this action.”
The appeal before the Privy Council was heard on March 21.
Finzi was represented by Lord Anthony Gifford KC, Terri-Ann Guyah Tolan and Aisha Thomas of the law firm Guyah Tolan & Associates, while JRF was represented by Sandra Minott-Phillips KC and M. Maurice Manning KC of the law firm Myers Fletcher & Gordon.