Article from The Daily Herald of St-Maarten.
PHILIPSBURG–Eleven US plaintiffs finally succeeded Tuesday in their bid to have developer Aquarius Company Ltd. and landowner Sabra N.V. declared bankrupt. Judge K. Mans of the Court of First Instance stated in her ruling that there were sufficient grounds for bankruptcy.
The plaintiffs had purchased single-family residences in the Aquarius project situated at Red Pond Estates between Dawn Beach and Guana Bay. All United States residents had started legal proceedings against the Erato family, the developers of the project, on December 1, 2009.
On February 8, 2010, the Court of First Instance had turned down plaintiffs’ request to declare Aquarius bankrupt, because it was not proven that Aquarius could not pay.
The Aquarius project, construction of which started in 2007, was to consist of 280 beachfront condos and seaside villas, a casino and a spa. According to the sale agreement, the tentative closing date for construction was set on or about November 2008. There were approximately 75 buyers for the entire project.
However, the apartments still are not finished almost five years later. In fact, construction has been at a total standstill for the longest time and, according to plaintiffs, the developers were unlawfully refusing to pay back instalments.
All the plaintiffs dissolved the sale agreements of their properties in 2009. According to them, Aquarius was obligated to pay back every payment, and should be declared bankrupt because it persistently refused to do so.
The plaintiffs invested a total sum of US $3,700,730 in real estate at Red Pond, but never will get their condos and may not see their money back either. The project was to be financed by a bank loan and customers’ instalments. However, the company was unable to pay the mortgage and the land was auctioned by the bank and sold on November 29, 2012.
Attorney-at-law Michiel Noordhoek of HBN Law stated in his petition to the Court that Aquarius and Sabra were unable to reimburse his clients and had not responded to letters and summonses. He described his clients’ case as “harrowing” during Monday’s closed-door hearing.
In his pleadings, Noordhoek claimed that in the meantime Sabra had seized the opportunity to transfer many of its assets to one or several corporations under Erato-family management, among them World Tours Limited in Anguilla.
Noordhoek said that all Aquarius owners had been urged to make consecutive down-payments for uncompleted construction phases. “Under false pretences, and under threat of termination of the purchase agreement with sequestration of all payments, many clients were urged to make even more payments to Sabra and Aquarius, which all seem to have been evaporated,” the lawyer said.
“Sabra and Aquarius owe plaintiffs and all other duped clients many millions of dollars, but while the principals of the summoned companies are bathing in luxury with expensive cars and speedboats, their creditors’ [demands – Ed.] fall on deaf ears.”
In Tuesday’s ruling, Judge Mans declared Aquarius and Sabra bankrupt, and appointed Judge Coen Luijks as official receiver and attorney Norbert Hijmans of BZSE law office as trustee.
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