(CMR) Millionaire businessman Blake Ducharme's is seeking to enforce a court order on CMR to have an article removed that was published about him in mid-July. Quickly after publication, Ogier began inundating CMR with documentation in the defamation lawsuit.
CMR has been instructed to remove an article about the Canadian-Amerian millionaire that probes why an illegal firearm was found at his house with no charges being filed against anyone. The article also inquired about the alleged circumstances where no import duty was paid on a multi-millionaire dollar speed boat that was later crashed in Cayman waters.
In what will no doubt be a David and Goliath moment for media houses in the Cayman Islands. His attorneys, Ogier, have prepared for the first of many battles in this war.
Firearm Charge – Importation of unlicensed firearm
Ducharme was arrested by the RCIPS on March 8, 2019, after a firearm was discovered at his home in Crystal Harbour. He was released on $100,000 bail with Ogier Senior Associate and former West Bay politician Cline Glidden Jr. (CG) acting as his surety.
Others have been charged with a firearm offense under eerily similar circumstances including Brac homeowner, David Meadows.
In his affidavit provided in his hearing bundle, he claims that:
I do not have copies of any documents relevant to the investigations since the investigations did not involve me in any way.
CMR now asks – how can an investigation not involve him in any way when he was the arrested party?
However, by May 1 he was released without any charge. No one was ever charged in the matter and there is absolutely NO indication of what transpired with the firearm. He does not acknowledge what happened to the firearm after he was released from being charged. Furthermore, he does not deny the fact that he made contact with the Cayman Island Gun Club as alleged in the initial article.
Customs Duty –
CMR has received email redacted correspondence in this case between Ogier and Customs Border Control (CBC).
On the matter of the customs duty, Ducharme claims that he brought the vessel into Cayman in February 2019; which is what is alleged in our article that he now contests is untrue and defamatory.
He further confirms that possibly contrary to our laws he did not seek a duty waiver until March 13, 2019; because he was undecided as to what he wished to do with the vessel. At some point in early March, the mega-yacht left without the powerboat. Does this demonstrate a conscious decision to leave the speedboat here at that point?
Upon entry, a person can be granted 30-days automatically – a time in which a decision should be made on what to do with the vessel. Glidden noted in an email to CBC on May 21, 2019, that his client intended to:
“keep the boat here for a few months to see whether he would keep it here or send it back to his home in the US or Barbados.”
The law does not permit a person to take a few months to make such a decision. A waiver is only CI$300.00 and is supposed to be applied for regardless if one is undecided or not. That initial 30-day period should provide sufficient time for the party to make a final decision.
In email correspondence, his attorney Cline Glidden states that his client “is a recent permanent resident” of the Cayman Islands.
Marlon Bodden, Deputy Director of CBC, inquired as to when the boat arrived in the Cayman Islands. NO precise date was given – the response was “February of this year”. Why was no precise date given when precision was used with all other dates in the back and forth correspondence?
However, Ducharme does NOT state that he had inquired PRIOR to entry with the vessel what the legal requirements are for the boat. He was unequivocally instructed that he should properly inform customs that the boat was in our waters upon entry. Sources indicate that he may have been denied a waiver prior to bringing the powerboat here. CMR is awaiting FOI confirmation of this.
There would have been some period of time that the vessel was here; after the larger yacht had left the jurisdiction. During that time the powerboat allegedly “overstayed”. Despite that fact, he applied for a waiver and was granted the 30-day extension by customs for the period covering March 13-12 June 2019.
This is the equivalent of a person overstaying with immigration and not only be free from any actions in relation to that unlawful period but then rewarded by being allowed to remain here further.
In an email dated May 21 Glidden inquires “our question is what should be done to satisfy Customs that the boat is no longer operable or of value and to be considered as having left the jurisdiction.”
Marlon Bodden, CBC Deputy Director, responds on May 22 with:
Before fully advising you, can you please clarify or not that initially when the vessel arrived in the Cayman Islands (under its own power) that the owner applied and received a Temporary Import Waiver of Duty from CI Customs & Border Control?
Glidden once again does not directly answer the question but instead, he attaches the approval letter dated March 19 that backdated the approval to March 13.
The initial CMR article and our email to Ducharme were done on Saturday, July 13. His attorneys have provided redacted correspondence that shows on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 16 Glidden was seeking a further CBC extension.
Ironically, he had already been arrested for the firearm matter by March 13; and that was an ongoing investigation. Any sensible individual would now see the need to be concerned about how else they may not have been compliant with the laws of the Cayman Islands.
Ducharme, for his part, has lawyered up and appears prepared to take CMR and administrator, Sandra Hill to court for “all available” assets according to his attorneys at Ogier. Despite Cayman Marl Road being a limited liability company, Ogier has named Sandra Hill personally on the legal documents in what she believes as an intimidation tactic.
Speaking exclusively to CMR Hill shared her position on the matter:
It is quite apparent that persons like Ducharme understand that they have financial means and with that comes certain privileges that the rest of us simply are not afforded. That includes suing the media for asking questions about questionable behavior. The article focused on government agencies that appear to have different rules for different people and why that is. Ducharme will now fight the battle on their behalf because he has endless resources.
The media in Cayman is often running scared of anything that isn't' the usual cookie-cutter story because of this type of intimidation and lack of financial means to fight it. However, no journalist can operate in this space with fear. You have to be fearless and if that means going up a giant like Ducharme then so be it.
Ducharme, the CEO of Black Gold Investments claims that he did not respond to CMR's email for comment before publication because he thought that it was “a hoax”.
His lawyers have instructed him that they have “a good cause of action” because he believes that he was defamed for allegedly (1) failing to declare a 43″ powerboat to evade paying customs duty and (2) that he brokered a deal with the RCIPS to avoid charges in connection with the importation of an unlicensed and illegal firearm and ammunition.
Those two points are the basis of his lawsuit and he claims that they have the “potential to cause lasting and serious damage to my reputation and reputation of Black Gold”.
CMR remains committed to the information its sources provided; which are protected by whistleblowing legislation. We contend that the articles did not personally accuse Ducharme of any wrongdoing but simply represented an alleged chain of events and asked questions based on that.
Several experts in that area gave their opinions on the alleged actions taken by authorities and asked some salient questions as a result of that. NO one is above the law regardless of their financial status.
There are some interesting bits of information that have been disclosed as a result of this lawsuit and CMR will methodically share that information with the general public. We believe in complete and total transparency. We do NOT believe in any back door dealings and nothing that transpires, in this case, will be kept from the public.