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Judge orders audit of casino
A High Court Judge has ordered a forensic audit into the operations of a casino which was the subject of a long-standing ownership dispute between two foreigners.
Justice Eleanor Donaldson- Honeywell ordered the audit to determine ownership of Club Princess Limited which operated Club Princess Casino on Independence Square in Port-of- Spain. She said it is also necessary because there might be evidence of illegal business practices such as skimming, destruction of records and diversion of funds.
The casino was established in 2005 as a joint venture by American Charles Frost, of Dallas Corporation, and Turkish national Sudi Ozkan, owner of Alanando Corporation.
They opened holding companies Club Princess Limited and Forty Four Limited to manage the casino and had a a verbal agreement to split the profits and make joint management decisions.
Before his death in 2011, Frost sold his stake in the venture to his friend and fellow American Thomas Baker, who came to Trinidad to replace Frost as managing director and for his stake to be officially transferred.
Baker assumed duties at the casino’s offices but was forced out while being sued by Frost’s brothers over his acquisition of shares in the company. The siblings’ lawsuit before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in St Kitts and Nevis was eventually thrown out because they failed to pursue the case.
Baker sued Ozkan, the companies and its corporate secretary and former government minister Christlyn Moore over their alleged “oppressive” conduct in ejecting him from the company. The company denied any wrongdoing and instead suggested that it was forced to do so due to Baker’s abrasive management style and conduct.
In his lawsuit, Baker claimed that since being forced out he has not received any profits or had access to financial records. His lawyer, Seenath Jairam, SC, submitted that while the dispute was ongoing, Ozkan and the company’s management funnelled money from it to establish competing casinos using the same trademark in Chaguanas, Movietowne, Port-of Spain, and San Fernando. The process effectively left the casino insolvent.
Baker did not challenge ownership of the other casinos as they were opened after the case was filed.
In her 35-page judgement, Justice Donaldson- Honeywell ruled that Baker was entitled to 50 per cent ownership of the companies and that he was oppressed.
She said winding up the companies would not benefit him.
The parties were given two weeks to decide on an independent auditor who will be appointed by the Registrar of the High Court in the event that there is no agreement.
Donaldson-Honeywell also gave the parties an option to appoint an investigator to look into the affairs of the companies after the audit is completed.
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