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Desmond set for legal battle over Canouan resort investment

Desmond set for legal battle over Canouan resort investment

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Tue, Mar 17, 2015

Dermot Desmond’s private equity firm IIU has engaged powerful advisers in London to fight a multimillion-dollar legal battle over his investment in a Caribbean resort.

Barrister Robert Anderson QC and solicitor Barnaby Stueck of Jones Day are acting for International Investment & Underwriting (IIU) in a major action against Canouan Resorts Development,{{more}} the company behind the ultra-luxury Pink Sands development on Canouan island in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Canouan Resorts Development is the vehicle of Swiss-Italian banker Antonio Saladino, which secured a 99-year lease to develop an international resort on the 13sq km island in 1990. Mr Desmond bought into the $120 million (€114 million) project on a 50:50 basis in 2010, the aim being to develop a premier destination pitched at the very top of the global market.

Salt and pepper

Canouan is roughly 177km west of Barbados, where Mr Desmond is a big investor in the Sandy Lane resort alongside Irish co-owners JP McManus and John Magnier. Last year Forbes magazine described Desmond testing 29 different salt and pepper grinders before choosing the best one for Pink Sands.

However, disagreements over the initiative led to attempts by Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, to broker a settlement between the parties. Mr Gonsalves’s spokesman, Hans King, acknowledged the prime minster’s interventions in the dispute but declined to comment further.

IIU responded to an emailed query by saying only that “there is no court case scheduled.” There was no comment on the status of the action, its nature, the jurisdictions involved or the sum of money in dispute.

On his website, Mr Anderson indicates he came on record last year in a case titled IIU Nominees v Canouan Resorts Development: “Acting for well-known Irish financier in international arbitrations and related foreign proceedings arising out of a multi-million dollar dispute concerning the development of the Island of Canouan, St Vincent.”

Mr Anderson’s other work includes acting for a defendent in claims by the Libyan Investment Authority to set aside $1.5 billion of structured investments with Societé Générale on the basis that they formed part of corrupt scheme.

Settlement monies

Among numerous other cases, he acted for the Sunday Times to recover settlement monies paid to disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. He also acted for Madoff Securities liquidators, Premiership soccer clubs and players in Britain and for the family trust which owns the “world’s largest and most important collection of Islamic Art” in a $50 million claim against a former adviser.

A query to Mr Anderson’s office was referred onward to Mr Stueck, who declined to comment saying the matter was confidential.

The Jones Day website says Mr Stueck’s recent caseload has involved “acting for an ultra-high net worth individual in relation to a complex multijurisdictional dispute relating to the redevelopment of a Caribbean island.”

Described as chief of the Jones Day the “offshore disputes” subpractice, Mr Stueck was involved in obtaining a $450 million judgment for the liquidators of failed hedge fund manager Weavering Capital (UK) in fraud proceedings against former directors and employees.

A member of staff at Canouan Resorts Development said the firm would not be commenting on the matter. (The Irish Times)

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