Samuel Commissiong, lawyer for Britain-born businessman Dave Ames, had admitted that he has destroyed a diary of important decisions that Ames made.
“I keep a diary of all important decisions Dave makes in discussions with me because I have come to understand that he frequently changes positions on issues,” Commissiong said in a years-old communication read in court last week.
The information was revealed as British Queen’s Counsel, Justin Fenwick, counsel for the defendants, was hearing evidence from Commissiong as the High Court of England & Wales met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for one week.
The British court was hearing evidence in Harlequin’s US$70 million claim for professional negligence against its former accountants and auditors Wilkins Kennedy — a firm.
Ames, who also has UK and Vincentian citizenship, is founder of Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, parent company of Buccament Bay Resort Ltd. and Harlequin Property SVG Ltd.
Commissiong is lawyer and company secretary for Harlequin SVG and Buccament Bay Resort.
Fenwick asked Commissiong if it was true that Ames frequently changed his position on issues.
Commissiong said that is so, and that it was also true that he kept a diary of all important discussions Ames had with him.
“Where is it (diary),” Fenwick asked?
“It has gone by the way.”
“What do you mean it has gone by the way?” Fenwick inquired.
“I have no further use for it,” Commissiong responded.
Questioned further by Fenwick, Commissiong said he kept the diary in his office and has destroyed it because it is of no further use to him.
“You had endless concerns with Mr. Ames, yes? There had been problems over Buccament Bay since 2009. You had been aware for some time that there had been disputes about what was said by Mr. MacDonald and what was said by Mr. O’Halloran and what was said by Mr. Ames. So why as a solicitor you have destroyed this diary, if it really existed?” Fenwick said.
“I have no further use of it,” Commissiong maintained.
The three main figures in the lawsuit are Padraig “Paudie” O’Halloran, formerly of ICE Group — Harlequin’s contractor for Buccament Bay Resort; Martin MacDonald — Wilkins Kennedy partner and Harlequin’s appointed accountant/representative from 2006 to 2010; and Jeremy Newman — former Wilkins Kennedy senior manager (resigned in 2013) who worked for O’Halloran and ICE Group from 2009.
Commissiong said he kept other diaries of discussions with his clients but kept a separate one of his conversations with Ames.
“Do you have a current diary for Mr. Ames?” Fenwick asked.
“No, I don’t.”
“When did you stop keeping a diary of important decisions made by Mr. Ames?
“About five years ago.”
“Why did you stop?
“It was no longer necessary?” Commissiong said.
“Why not? Because there were more decisions being made?” Fenwick asked
Commissiong said Ames would come to his office and have discussions about construction and construction issues and those weren’t his business.
Commissiong also told the court that he was involved in receiving money from Harlequin and paying them out on Ames’ instructions.
The funds were remitted from England to an account at First Caribbean International Bank in Commissiong’s name and for which he was the sole signatory
He told the court that the money was principally for the sale of land “and other purchases” for the company and paying people to do things.
Commissiong, however, rejected Fenwick’s suggestion that he acted “as a kind of bank”.
The Vincentian lawyer told the court that he did not keep a ledger of transactions from the account, but kept records “in receipt form”.
Commissiong also told the court that he also paid money to local businessman and landowner, Bernard Punnett on Ames’ instructions.
He, however, said that these payments were not pursuant to any written contract.
He said he was instructed by Ames to make the payment and he did, but had no idea what the payments were for.
However, pressed on this matter, Commissiong said he knew the general purpose of the money was to buy lands “sometimes”.
The court has, however, established that part of the resort has been built on lands owned by Mr. Punnett and his sister, Bernadette Punnett-Jones.
And, in her testimony, Sherla Quammie, an accounts executive at the resort, told the court that Ames rented houses and vehicles from Mr. Punnett for housing and transportation of expat staff.
Questioned about whether the account contained money for Ames’ business interests outside of SVG, Commissiong said he was custodian of the money but what was to be done with it “was not my business as long as I protected all of it”.
Asked by Fenwick, Commissiong said that the monies did not amount to 10, 20, or 30 million pound sterling.