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Successful Enforcement Abroad


Each jurisdiction has its own positives and negatives when it comes to enforcement. It is never so simple anywhere as, “here is a judgment, I would like some money”. Recalcitrant debtors tend to be quite adept at hiding their assets and preventing their realisation. You need to find not only assets but assets that can be liquidated.

Some time ago Restitution acquired a non-performing debt belonging to an erstwhile Guernsey resident with an interesting background, having previously owned a shopping mall, he moved to Guernsey under the Wealthy Refugee Scheme (i.e. open market) and then became embroiled in disputes and litigation with local authorities and others.

Having partially defended the action which we took over mid-way the Debtor disappeared, we obtained judgment and a costs order.

The Guernsey address was interesting, it was one of a block of four flats, the parent company was obviously linked in some fashion to the Debtor. The Debtor had a number of companies, all of which were either struck off or went down the route towards being struck off, only to be resuscitated at the last minute. The Companies Registry in Guernsey does not show shareholders post-2008 which again makes asset assessment and enforcement challenging.

External inspection of the Debtor’s flat showed a post box overflowing with writs and demands from the local Courts and authorities. The Debtor had no apparent fixed or ascertained abode and had not only disappeared but was being very clever about hiding his whereabouts, it is very difficult to live off grid.

Matters came to a head when the bank which had financed the acquisition of a block of flats foreclosed. There was no equity partially because the Debtor had been transferring the rental income to himself instead of paying it to the lending bank.

When, as part of the foreclosure process, his flat was opened, documents were found indicating ownership of a boat. We duly attached the boat in Guernsey which was in poor condition. No monies had been found locally.

Guernsey, as in some other jurisdictions, including Bahrain, has helpful enforcement mechanisms mandated by the Court; as in all, local banks are asked by the Sheriff whether or not they are holding money and it is locked down automatically post-judgment for the creditor, which is a very useful adjunct, most countries do not do that.

We now had a boat, we were afforded pragmatic assistance by the Sheriff in Guernsey who not only authorised a clean-up and some minor works prior to sale, but also authorised the insertion of a sensible reserve, again factors not always possible in many jurisdictions. The boat failed to reach its reserve, the Sheriff then negotiated with the most interested of the buyers for a considerably enhanced price for which we were grateful. We were also grateful to our local supplier, Jeremy Le Tissier for his assistance.

The rump of our debt and pursuit of the Debtor are ongoing.