Evatt Tamine (Photograph by Dean Sewell, Sydney Morning Herald)
A lawyer accused of “wrongfully” taking more than $28 million from a company linked to a multibillion-dollar Bermuda-based charitable trust has been ordered to pay it back.
Evatt Tamine denies any wrongdoing over funds he transferred from Spanish Steps Holdings Ltd, but Chief Justice Narinder Hargun has ruled he gave ‘totally unconvincing’ explanations as to why he should be cleared to withdraw an agreement to reimburse them.
The island’s top judge slammed Mr Tamine for ‘disproportionately’ using court time with his ‘strategic manoeuvres’ and said his observations on his first job here suggested he may have breached the law immigration law.
Mr Tamine, an Australian who gained Bermudian status in 2017 through marriage, worked here for Texas billionaire Robert Brockman for many years, helping to run a network of offshore entities linked to the A Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust.
In September 2018, the family home in Fairylands was raided by police assisting the United States Department of Justice, who were investigating Mr Brockman for tax evasion.
Mr. Tamine was granted immunity from prosecution after agreeing to be a witness.
He testified before a grand jury, which led to Mr Brockman, 80, being charged with 39 counts, including tax evasion, wire fraud and money laundering, in connection with the largest tax evasion lawsuit ever brought against a person in the United States.
Mr Brockman denies the allegation and a trial is underway in Houston, with lawyers for the former CEO of Reynolds & Reynolds, a car dealership software company, saying he is not mentally fit to participate due to dementia.
Spanish Steps, along with a company that was the trustee of the Brockman Charitable Trust, filed civil suits against Mr Tamine and his Bermuda-based company, Tangarra Consultants, in 2018.
The lawsuit contained allegations, strongly denied by Mr Tamine, of theft and dishonesty, involving transfers of $5.3 million, $16.9 million and £5 million (about $6.1 million ) of Spanish Steps between 2016 and 2018.
Judge Hargun ruled in favor of Spanish Steps – a British Virgin Islands company set up in 1989 by Mr Brockman – for those amounts.
The Chief Justice, in his May 6 decision, said Mr Tamine, having previously filed a defense in which he agreed to refund the money, then sought permission to change the refund proposal.
In a January 4, 2021 affidavit, Mr. Tamine claimed that he “originally decided to offer to refund all the money without prejudice to the fact that there was no wrongdoing” because he did not have access at the time to the documents that would prove the “on the basis of the payment of $5.395 million and the payment of $16.8 million”.
He said he also hoped that by agreeing to return the money, “Mr. Brockman and his associates would stop making offensive accusations against me. Unfortunately, this was not the case. »
Judge Hargun said: “The court finds both of these explanations wholly unconvincing.
“…it is unbelievable that someone in Mr. Tamine’s position would admit liability and agree to pay an amount in excess of $29 million unless he and his legal advisers sincerely believe there is had no reasonably arguable legal defense to the claim.”
The $5.395 million payment related to Bewdley, a property on Richmond Road, Pembroke, owned by the family of Mr Tamine’s wife, Sophie Tod, through a trust.
Mr Tamine’s sworn testimony was that he and Mr Brockman had agreed that he would buy Bewdley, renovate it and then lease it to the company, which was the trustee of the Brockman Charitable Trust, for use as the headquarters of the trust.
He said the $5.395 million included a $2.495 million loan and money Mr Brockman owed him under his contract of employment. He claimed Mr Brockman had agreed at a meeting in 2017 that the full amount had been refunded.
Mr Tamine, represented by local solicitor Paul Harshaw and UK QC David Brownbill, also claimed Mr Brockman accepted the $16.8 million payment in a phone call in August 2018 and that he it was a six-year advance payment of his salary, for legal tax purposes, after he and his wife decided to move to England.
He said the £5million was to cover his legal costs after the raid on his home and that a trustee company director, James Gilbert, cleared them.
But the chief judge rejected his evidence. The judge wrote: ‘A feature of this case which is of great concern to the court is that the proposed case which Mr. Tamine is seeking to advance in relation to the three payments and against Mr. Brockman is based entirely on his oral agreements with Mr. Brockman, for which there is no documentation that memorizes these agreements.
The judge said Mr Tamine’s recent submissions to the court included the assertion that while his work permit between 2004 and 2007 – before his marriage – had been obtained by Tangarra, he was “in effect fulfilling his employment obligations to Mr. Brockman…”
He said Mr. Tamine and his lawyers appeared to have “not given sufficient consideration” that such a claim could place Mr. Tamine and Tangarra – which Mr. Tamine wholly owns – in breach of the 1956 immigration, for which he could be fined or imprisoned. .
The judge said there was “strong evidence against” the new suggestion that Mr Tamine and Mr Brockman had a direct legal relationship of employer and employee.
He denied Mr. Tamine’s request to introduce an amended defence, but allowed him to pursue a counterclaim against Spanish Steps, which was represented by Keith Robinson.
Mr Robinson also represented BCT Ltd, the trustee of the Brockman Charitable Trust which, according to previous legal proceedings, has assets estimated at $6 billion.
The trustee was formerly St John’s Trust Company Ltd.
*To read the full judgment, click on the PDF under Related Media.