Letters & Opinion

A Tale of Two Parties – Part 3

Image of David Prescod
By David Prescod

AS we continue to examine former Prime Minister Anthony’s letter to Robert Ainsworth, we note that in the first paragraph of that letter he is responding to Ainsworth, following receipt of an e-mail from him, regarding the new financial structure of companies called DCG Properties Limited and Equator Lands. That presentation on the restructuring of those companies apparently gave the then Prime Minister sufficient confidence in Ainsworth that he subsequently met with him twice, and then took Ainsworth’s investment proposal to Cabinet resulting in that “letter of comfort”.

It would be interesting to find out just what was in that e-mail to the then Prime Minister regarding the financial re-structuring of those companies, as Equator Lands was only incorporated in the UK on August 27, 2015 with Robert Ainsworth as the sole shareholder of the company, while the former Prime Minister’s letter to Ainsworth is dated February 9, 2016.

The other company mentioned in the first paragraph of that letter to Ainsworth is one called DCG Properties Limited. A company with that name was registered in the UK in 2007, but as the company referred to in Dr. Anthony’s letter had received concessions from his government in 2003, a further search led to another, DCG Properties Limited, which was registered in St. Lucia in July 2003 and which had been responsible for the development of Le Paradis hotel at Praslin.

The “Le Paradis” website home page reveals that Le Paradis is a DCG Properties Limited “Development”, and a check with the “Development Team” page on that site provides the resumé of the Managing Director, Kierron L. S. Dolby. From that resumé we learn that DCG Properties Limited was “formed for the purpose of developing the proposed multi-phased destination at Le Paradis, Praslin Bay”, and that Mr. Dolby was the founder, major shareholder and Managing Director of the company. Mr. Dolby’s resumé also indicates that he is the “founder, owner and President of CHS Building Services Ltd”, a company which was registered in the UK on May 15, 1992 with Mr. Dolby listed as its only shareholder.

In a self-written article appearing in the BBC Lincolnshire Expats web-page last updated on October 28, 2014, Dolby indicates that he first came to St. Lucia as a result of working on plans for a new development, and that he later formed his company (DCG Properties Limited) which was involved in developing hotels and properties on St. Lucia. We know that DCG was formed in 2003, and that Dolby’s principal occupation before coming to St. Lucia was with his company CHS Building Services Ltd. in the UK, and so we examined the records for this UK company.

Incorporated in 1992, in 2003 CHS Building Services Ltd. was a company with audited total net assets of £790,349 and cash at bank of £41,795 at October 31, 2003. Yet, in that same year, 2003, the owner and sole shareholder of this minor company providing air conditioning and plumbing services in the UK somehow was able to come to St. Lucia and become a major real estate and property developer “overnight”. Having established DCG Properties Ltd. in July 2003, Dolby was able to obtain a range of concessions from the SLP government of the day and proceeded to engage in the development of Le Paradis, one of St. Lucia’s premier potential resorts.

One year after having established DCG Properties Ltd. in St. Lucia, in 2004 Dolby had relocated to St. Lucia, and in an interview appearing in the Financial Times of April 20, 2007, he is quoted as indicating that at the time of his relocation, he had “reached a point where it had to be all or nothing”. In 2004, the audited statements of Dolby’s company in the UK showed that the company’s total net assets had declined from £790,349 in 2003 to £445,910 in 2004, with cash at bank in the amount of £38,883.

By 2007, when Dolby was also describing to that reporter from the Financial Times that St. Lucia had now become his spiritual home and he was being described by the publication as the person “whose company, DCG Properties, is building the £400m Le Paradis”, the audited accounts of his UK company, CHS Building Services Ltd, showed that the company’s financial slide had continued. Its total net assets had declined further, from £445,910 in 2004 to £193,867 in 2007, with cash at bank that year of £86, and by 2011 the company’s total net assets were £26,553, with cash at bank of £35. On August 9, 2013 the company went into voluntary liquidation with liabilities in excess of its realizable assets amounting to £542,467.

As the financial details of DCG Properties Limited, (Dolby’s St. Lucia company), are not available, we do not know the entire cost of the Le Paradis development or how it was financed, except that private individuals invested in the condominiums being built, and that financing was provided by the Clico Investment Bank. This bank encountered difficulties in 2008 and eventually went into liquidation in 2011, with the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Trinidad & Tobago, (DIC), appointed as liquidators.

At its presentation to the St. Lucia Investment Forum in May 2014, the DIC indicated that at that time, (May 2014), the amount outstanding on the partially-built Le Paradis development was US$163.9m, and that Clico Investment Bank held a mortgage on the property for US$100m. It would be interesting to know who is responsible for the additional charges and costs of this development. But in that “letter of comfort” to Ainsworth, Dr. Anthony refers to e-mail correspondence from him, (Ainsworth), which provided “details of the new financial structure of DCG Properties Limited and of the Equator Lands companies”, details which seem to have satisfied the former Prime Minister of the financial soundness of the proposal which he was entertaining.

Apparently, having learnt nothing from that first scandal in 2003 by which Kierron Dolby, a distressed small-time UK building services contractor was able to re-invent himself, receive concessions from Dr. Anthony’s then government and become one of St. Lucia’s premier property developers, Dr. Anthony and his Cabinet were prepared to create a fresh scandal in February 2016. This time, it would be with a “developer” whose company, Equator Lands Limited, had at best been in existence for three months at the time of Dr. Anthony’s referenced telephone conversation with its owner, Ainsworth, in November 2015.

Except that now, the “developer” was proposing investment of US$800m in real estate development which was to include the purchase of Le Paradis and/or DCG Properties Ltd, as well as the development of pharmaceutical manufacturing companies costing €1bn. All of this inspired, we have to assume, by the Citizenship by Investment Programme and the ready cash that this programme is supposed to generate, as these projects were to be given CIP-approved status.

Although the first paragraph of Dr. Anthony’s letter describes Equator Lands as the “Developer” or “Development Company”, the offer of concessions by his Cabinet is actually made to a company called Lifestyle Group plc. And as we examine these two companies, we find that Equator Lands and Lifestyle plc share the same London address for official correspondence with five other companies, three of which are owned by Lifestyle Group plc. (Seven companies are listed at this address).

A Robert Ainsworth having the same date of birth as the Ainsworth who owns the Equator Lands and Lifestyle Group plc companies is also recorded in the UK public company register as having registered 21 more companies. Twenty of those companies were registered between the period February 2009 and March 2015, and while many have names that suggest that they may have been involved in the pharmaceutical or manufacturing industries, there is no official confirmation of this.

Of those 21 companies, 15 have since been dissolved, and of the remaining six, two are in liquidation. One of those in liquidation, Intelligent Asset Marketing, lists a Robert Ainsworth as the sole shareholder and has liabilities in excess of assets of £1.4m at January 20, 2017; the second is under a court order to wind up. Each of the remaining four companies is under notice for compulsory strike-off from the UK register of companies.

As it turns out, the companies registered by a Robert Ainsworth with different London addresses for correspondence are linked. In the first instance, Equator Lands was initially registered at one address, 207 Regent Street, then had its address changed to the other of the two addresses, 22 Upper Woburn Place.

As an illustration of the links between the companies, a company called Refined Technologies Group plc was registered on October 6, 2014 having an address at 23 Berkeley Square, London, with a Robert Ainsworth as owner of 50% of the shares. On March 25, 2015 the name of that company was changed to Lifestyle Group plc, and a Certificate of Registration issued in that regard.

On the same date, March 25, 2015, a new company called Refined Technologies Group Limited was also registered, with Lifestyle Group plc the sole shareholder listed on the application to create that company. At this point, Lifestyle Group plc, one of the group of seven companies mentioned above, owns Refined Technologies Group Limited, which is one of the other group of twenty-one companies also mentioned above.

On August 12, 2015 the registered address of Lifestyle Group plc was changed to 207 Regent Street, London. On January 17, 2016 however, a company called Combined Innovations plc was registered, with Robert Ainsworth owning 100% of the company, but this company was renamed Lifestyle Group plc on the same day. The registered address of Lifestyle Group plc at this date is 22 Upper Woburn Place, London, although no registered change of its previous Regent Street address is listed.

Again on January 17, 2016, the same date that it was registered, Lifestyle Group plc was renamed Combination Technology plc and on March 17, 2016, that company was renamed Combination Technology Limited. On October 17, 2016, Combination Technology Limited was ordered to wind up by the UK Court.

Of the 25 companies registered between February 2009 and June 2016 by a Robert Ainsworth having a date of birth of July 1953, fifteen have been dissolved, two are in court-ordered liquidation, four are under active Gazette notice to be struck off the UK register, while three more are owned by one of the companies to be struck off. Equator Lands and two earlier registered real estate companies remain registered at 22 Woburn Place, London.

The above details lead us to question the judgment of former Prime Minister Anthony and his Cabinet in first providing concessions to DCG Properties Ltd, and then in giving consideration to that Ainsworth proposal and again offering concessions. Given the readily available public information above, the question must be asked as to what could have led the former Prime Minister and his entire Cabinet to engage with these Dolby and Ainsworth companies?

Whatever the answer to that may be, the next time Dr. Anthony is moved to pronounce on the propriety, or lack thereof, of any project in particular, he might first remind himself of his own track record, and he must recognize that it is anything but stellar.

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