Unexploded munitions, restive tribespeople, a controversial Chinese-Australian-Malaysian businessman, a Solomon Islands High Court-ordered $50 million payout ruling and a government reluctant to pay – what self-respecting insolvency practitioner wouldn’t want a slice of this pie?
Certainly neither Worrells Chris Darin or Hall Chadwick’s Richard Albarran and Kathleen Vouris are showing any signs that the flavour – more copra cabinet than banana republic – is not to their liking.
The problem though is that Darin, as receiver appointed to Orbis Commodities (Orbis) and its wholly-owned subsidiary Pacific Investment Holding Limited (PIH), and Albarran and Vouris as voluntary administrators (VAs) of the companies, are fixated on the same slice.
Orbis and PIH have stakes in several companies in the Solomon Islands which own land upon which extensive and valuable coconut and copra operations have taken place.
Unexploded ordinance from some of World War II’s bloodiest engagements aside, there’s the possibility that Orbis and PIH’s stakes in the land are worth something and possibly a lot of something, almost $50 million if a heavily qualified valuation by Grant Thornton proves accurate.
Having been appointed as receiver in 2017 one would think Darin would be in the box seat but it appears that he has been disadvantaged, possibly by the controversies surrounding his appointor.
Patrick Wong has been described as Malaysian, as Chinese-Australian, and no doubt many other things besides.
He’s been accused of being a corporate raider, an “undesirable immigrant”, a money launderer and a reneger on a deal to bring millions of dollars for investment into the Pacific Islands nation. iNO makes no suggestion that the accusations are true or that Wong has been involved in any wrongdoing.
What’s certain is that Wong has had a long involvement in the Solomon Islands, he has taken on the Government there on more than one occasion and won, and that he is not backing down in his quest to extract that he sees as his entitlement under his security for loans he extended to Orbis and PIH, which own shares in the companies that own the contested lands.
Why Darin has been unable to enforce Wong’s security may well be linked to Wong’s and the Solomon’s government’s fractured relationship.
VAs Albarran and Vouris meanwhile have their own tribulations, with a much delayed deed of company arrangement proposal (DoCA) from the Solomon Islands government forcing them to seek several extensions to the convening period for the second meeting since they were appointed VAs in April this year.
That meeting is now scheduled for December and in the meantime, Albarran and Vouris have had issued to Wong and Darin summons to appear for public examination and notices to produce.
The pair want all documents relating to any or all sale processes run by Darin, along with valuations of the shares Orbis and PIH hold in the relevant Solomon Islands companies.
At this stage the examinations are scheduled to take place on November 9 and November 10.
Given the complexities – compliance with the notices to produce could potentially put Wong and Darin in contravention of Solomon Islands laws – we wouldn’t rule out further challenges to the summonses on the basis of some or other technicality, the most recent of which were dealt with by Justice Angus Stewart yesterday.