The Offshore Banking Nightmare

Monday 06th, February 2012 / 10:18 Published by
Offshore Nightmare

Cover: Mick Coulas

It was a strategy born of sheer frustration, a chess move that failed. On Nov. 28, 2006, Michael Morris, a Canadian who runs a small offshore bank in the Bahamas, arrived at a bustling Starbucks in downtown Toronto expecting to meet a woman called Ginette Brown. The previous month, a woman by this name had called Morris at his offices in Nassau, where he runs Barrington Bank International Ltd., and told him she had a client seeking financing and would Morris agree to meet with her when he was next in Toronto? Weeks later, they arranged to rendezvous at the Starbucks while he was in town visiting family.

But soon after Morris sat down to wait for Brown, a bailiff server walked up and slapped him with a subpoena. The meeting with “Ginette Brown” had actually been a ruse. Morris was being ordered to testify about what assets the Barrington Bank held for Ronald Weinberg, the former co-CEO of Cinar Corp., the Montreal children’s animation company (of Arthur and The Busy World of Richard Scarry fame). The subpoena had been drafted by Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, which was pursuing Weinberg on behalf of Cinar’s new owners for millions they claimed was missing from the company’s coffers — $11.3 million of which they believed was sitting in Morris’ bank.

This bit of guile backfired, however, when Weinberg’s lawyers went before Quebec Superior Court Justice André Denis and had the subpoena tossed out on the grounds it had been served using subterfuge. Denis was clearly displeased, saying the bait-and-switch with the bailiff server had the effect of “discrediting the administration of justice.”

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