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Ponzi dead end - Attorney says it might be too late for World Wise investors to sue

Published:Tuesday | January 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

World Wise Partners investors, who police investigators say are owed hundreds of millions of dollars, may be out of time to take civil action in the courts to recoup their losses.

Since The Gleaner's exclusive interview with former World Wise boss Noel Strachan last Friday, a number of persons have come forward with claims that they are owed millions of US dollars, but one prominent attorney says the law allows six years for persons to file suit for breach of debt.

According to the attorney, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the clock starts ticking at the time the debt becomes due.

"The statute of limitation in Jamaica ... says if you [are] going to sue for breach of contract or for a debt, you need to sue six years from the date the debt became due," the attorney explained.

Yesterday, the police Fraud Squad revealed that its investigations have shown that more than 100 World Wise investors were defrauded of more than $260 million.

World Wise Partners - one of several unregulated schemes operating at the time - collapsed in August 2008 after its operators were served with a cease-and-desist order by the Financial Services Commission.

"It looks like it's dead," the attorney said about potential civil action against Strachan.

Despite this, the attorney said there was a glimmer of
hope for investors who are still owed millions of
dollars.

According to the attorney, the law allows
aggrieved persons another six years to file a civil action in cases
where the debtor acknowledges the debt in writing.

"So
if I owe you money and seven years later I acknowledge that I owe you,
then the time starts to run again from the time I acknowledge owing you
the money," the attorney reasoned.

Businessman Oswaldo
Francis is one of several persons who came forward since Strachan's
claim - in the story published by The Gleaner - that
he has made restitution to 90 per cent of all World Wise
investors.

Francis showed The Gleaner
documents which he claims prove that he is owed more than US$2
million in principal and interest payment by World Wise. According to
him, the money was collected from friends as well as clients and turned
over to Strachan to invest.

He recalled how, in July
2007, one of Strachan's relatives - who he had known for more than 30
years - informed him of Strachan's plan to start trading in foreign
exchange and encouraged him to invest.

"She suggested
that I help him bring in clients," the businessman recalled
yesterday.

Francis said not long after, he met with
Strachan to discuss the venture and was so impressed that several days
later, he invested US$24,000.

He conceded that in
hindsight he did not do enough research into Strachan's business
plan.

"His [relative] convinced me that she was doing
it and bringing in people and getting their 10 per cent ... so we
started putting in small amounts," he said.

One woman,
who did not want her name published, revealed that she invested
US$5,000 in World Wise, but said she never went to the police or filed a
civil case against the operators of the scheme because "I just didn't
know what to do"