When the lawsuit came up for hearing at the Port-of-Spain High Court on Tuesday, Duprey’s lawyer Michael Coppin indicated that his client wanted to withdraw his initial position of having accepted liability but not quantum.
Coppin said his client’s defence was now based on the statute of limitation, while Industrial Commercial Development (Trinidad) Limited – which John is also suing – has amended its defence on a breach of contract principle.
But Justice Seepersad questioned whether Duprey can now withdraw his defence. “Under what circumstances can you withdraw an appearance? I am not aware of any provision to do so. It cannot be that the first defendant can just say, ‘Oops. I want to withdraw my defence’,” the judge pointed out.
Coppin admitted while the rules were silent, it has been done in the past. John’s attorney Asha Watkins- Montserin, who appears with attorney Keith Scotland and Sheriza Khan, said there was no rule permitting Duprey to withdraw his defence. She also expressed surprise at the move as her client was not served with the application.
Coppin was given until March 28, to file submissions on the issue and the judge is expected to give his ruling on May 16. He added, “Courts must jealously guard its processes against abuse of process. You have to convince me that that course of action is proper,” the judge said. “This court is moving on as if there is an admittance of liability,” Justice Seepersad added.
Both John and Duprey have also been told by the judge that they must attend court when the matter comes up next for hearing. They were not in court on Tuesday and although John was said to be ill, no reason was given for Duprey’s absence.
In his lawsuit, John, a former Minister of Works, said that in 2012, Duprey, on various occasions, requested loans which John provided.
He said there was an oral agreement between them for Duprey to repay these loans. John also alleged that Duprey used ICDL as a shell company to avoid personal liability.
John said, he lent Duprey $5,166,125 and used his property to secure the amounts he borrowed from the bank. He also provided a table of wire transfers made to Duprey’s bank account in Florida over the period March to September 30, 2012.
John said he was expected to be repaid in October 2013, pending a real estate transaction but received no money. He also said that in January 2015, Duprey acknowledged the loan amount and assured he would repay John, when he sold his 418,880 shares in MotorOne Insurance Company, which is owned by ICDL.
According to John, ICDL entered into a sale agreement for the sale of Duprey’s shares in MotorOne in December 2015, and he was expected to receive an initial $24 million, with the balance to be paid over one year. He said even with the deposit of $12 million paid to Duprey for the sale of MotorOne shares, he (John) was not paid as promised.
John said he has learned that there has been a revision of the terms of the MotorOne share sale with Duprey set to receive more than $54 million.
John also said Duprey communicated directly with him in November 2015 and acknowledged the loan debt and made a promise to liquidate. Later that month he received $500,000 and in February 2016, another payment of $90,000 but none since. The balance of the loan owed is $4.5 million, John’s lawsuit alleges. He is seeking repayment of the amount owed as well as interest.
Duprey in his defence denied John’s claims and also denied that ICDL was his shell company. He said he was one of two shareholders who collectively hold 100 percent of ordinary shares in ICDL. The other shareholder is Dalco Capital Management Company, which although not admitted in his claim, is said to be owned by Duprey.
Duprey admitted that there was a series of agreements, over time, between himself and John for different sums of money but does not admit to owing him $5.1 million.
He also contends that John’s action is statute barred as four years have expired from the date of the cause of action in 2012 to the filing of the claim in 2016. Duprey also says the wire transfers exhibited by John in the lawsuit were not related to a loan from John but to the sale of a property. ICDL in its defence has denied knowledge of any promises to repay any loan incurred by Duprey