Three key companies in the Hope Funds web of companies, formerly controlled by Enrique Blaksley Señorans and his associates including Maria Mercedes Vega, Verónica Vega and Federico Dolinkué, have been placed into liquidation pursuant to the Insolvency Act, 2003 by the High Court in the British Virgin Islands.
Hadley J Chilton and John J Greenwood of Baker Tilly in the British Virgin Islands were appointed as the liquidators with effect from 14 June 2017.
The Liquidators, who were formerly appointed as Provisional Liquidators pending the application being heard, now have enhanced powers to embark on a global asset recovery mission in respect of the group of companies, which was at one stage reportedly worth around USD400 million. Creditors, largely based in Argentina, are thought to number in the thousands.
The case has already received coverage in Argentina and stakeholders have voiced concerns that the Hope Funds Group is a Ponzi-like scheme and that creditor monies have been dissipated.
Hadley Chilton, one of the Joint Liquidators, stated “We have come across similar fact patterns before and we are collecting information on a range of transactions and assets. The assets in these companies now legally belong to the liquidations and we seek to trace assets outside of the group which may have been procured using company monies. We have replaced the former management within the group and, acting as officers of the BVI Court, we are now the only authorised fiduciaries for the companies over which we are appointed.” The directors and former management no longer have any authority to deal in the affairs of the companies or their assets.
There is also an automatic stay on any person attempting to commence or continue any legal proceedings in respect of the companies. Some creditors have been contacted to engage in a second APE (Extrajudicial Preventive Agreement), after the first one was rejected by the commercial court in Argentina, yet this is no longer necessary or available by reason of the commencement of insolvency proceedings and the appointment of the Liquidators and the former management no longer having any powers to act for the companies. The assets attributable to the companies and their affiliates must be promptly turned over to the Liquidators and surplus assets in the liquidation estates will be distributed among all creditors pari passu.
The Liquidators are liaising with the authorities in Argentina and many Argentine lawyers who have been working representing creditors on the issue for some time. John Greenwood said, “We look forward to collaborating with the support of the authorities and the applicable Courts in order to ensure maximum recoveries to the liquidation estates which will ultimately be for the benefit of the creditors. Our firm is experienced in finding innovative cross-border dispute resolution and asset recovery solutions that cut through the mêlée to achieve the right result for those who have lost money and the BVI Courts have an exemplary reputation in this area, further demonstrated by recently becoming a pioneer adopter of the new Judicial Insolvency Network guidelines for communication and cooperation between courts in cross-border insolvency matters”
Buenos Aires-based lawyers Sebastián Ricciardi of Richard, Brea & Ricciardi Lima and Martín Caride of Aguirre Savaria & Gebhardt added that they have been working on this case for creditors for many months and are now collaborating with the Liquidators in support of the BVI proceedings in order to take advantage of the relative efficiency and global effect of the insolvency processes to enhance chances of successful recoveries being made.
In parallel, criminal proceedings have been commenced against Mr. Blaksley and certain associates in Argentina.
Creditors to any of the companies and related entities have been urged to contact the Liquidators at firstname.lastname@example.org with full details of their claims for monies owed to them.
Baker Tilly in the British Virgin Islands is the oldest firm in the territory and the Liquidators have unrivalled experience in the BVI. The Liquidators benefit from the firm being a part of the global top ten network of independent member firms, Baker Tilly International and will draw on the resources of member firms in other countries where it assists their investigations.