Bharath: $4 rent for Benihana restaurant
THE CHEF'S special at Benihana is "only $36" according to information posted on the website of the Japanese restaurant and sushi bar.
According to information from Terrence Bharath, the attorney for the CLICO policyholders group at the commission of enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial and the Hindu Credit Union (HCU), this $36 price could pay Benihana's rent at Trincity Mall for nine months.
Bharath yesterday told the enquiry that Benihana's rent at the mall was $4 a month.
He made the statement while cross-examining Anthony Fifi, the former managing director of Home Construction Limited (HCL).
Trincity Mall is one of the subsidiaries of HCL.
Fifi's wife is the franchise holder of Benihana.
During cross-examination, Bharath asked Fifi what Benihana paid in monthly rental.
Fifi said he did not know what the Benihana's monthly rental was but said it was a "fair payment".
"First of all Benihana was a mistake not from the point of view you are talking about, from the point of view from taking it to Trincity, " Fifi said.
Fifi said Benihana is an international name, and Trincity Mall needed such a brand for "international exposure".
Bharath said Benihana's $4 rent is almost "300 per cent less that the going rate at the mall".
"Let me explain something to you, if you check Benihana you will find that Benihana has 20 feet of frontage onto the mall, if you examine normal mall leasing clearly you will find that the restaurant across the road has extensive frontage. Benihana occupies C class space," Fifi said.
Fifi accused Bharath of "ignoring common-service charges and everything else".
BHARATH: What were you paying for the rental of Benihana's in Trincity Mall?
FIFI: A very fair rental.
FIFI: Whatever it was, it was a very fair rental I cannot tell you the number but I know when it was being negotiated, recognising my interest in it, I made absolutely certain...first of all Benihana was a mistake, not from the point of view you are talking about, from the point of view of taking it to Trincity. We put Benihana in Trincity to help Trincity. It is an international name and Trincity at the time needed international exposure.
BHARATH: My instructions are you got that rental on $4 a month.....
FIFI: Whatever rental it was it was extremely.....
BHARATH: And it was almost 300 per cent less than the going rate in the mall.
FIFI: Let me explain something to you. If you check Benihana you will find that Benihana has 20 feet of frontage onto the mall. If you examine normal mall leasing clearly you will find that the restaurant across the road has extensive frontage. Benihana occupies C-class space hence....you are ignoring common-service charges and everything else. Benihana right now pays on average about $95,000 a month.
BHARATH: Mr Fifi....
FIFI: Since you are making accusations get your facts correct.
With all the charges accumulated, Benihana has a monthly fee of $95,000, Fifi said.
Bharath and Fifi also disagreed on the amount of compensation HCL received through his company PMI Limited, from the HCL.
Bharath claimed that Fifi received $135 million between the period 2004-2008.
Fifi said the amount he received was no more than $79 million for that period.
In the contract between PMI and HCL, Fifi received one per cent from every customer who stayed at the Holiday Inn Express.
PMI Limited is a private company Fifi founded after retiring from HCL and Cl Financial.
The corporate secretary for HCL, Roxanne Husbands, was also the corporate secretary for PMI.
Fifi said PMI, a company with its head office in Barbados, only had two employees— " himself and a driver".
He said there was "nothing clandestine, hidden or underhand" about the situation.
Bharath yesterday said that the One Woodbrook Place project which was spearheaded by Fifi was now indebted to its bankers in the amount of $1.4 billion.
Bharath said even if all of the multi-million dollar apartments at One Woodbrook Place were sold, the project will still be a loss.
Fifi yesterday repeated several times during cross-examination that he could not recall things that took place at board meetings.
Fifi was a director on the CL Financial, CLICO and HCL boards.