Canadian Billionaire in International Legal Battle

Michael DeGroote (l.), a Canadian billionaire and philanthropist, is involved in a legal battle over investments made to Caribbean gaming operations. DeGroote invested $5 million in the company in 2010, while they stopped making payments on the loan in 2012, after adding staff who has links to a Canadian mafia clan.

Canadian philanthropist, billionaire, and officer of the Order of Canada Michael DeGroote is currently tied in a legal battle with Caribbean casinos who has links to a well known Canadian mafia clan. The Canadian Broadcast Company and Globe and Mail conducted a year long investigation claiming at the time, DeGroote was unaware of the men’s “underworld connections.”

DeGroote was reported to have lent millions of dollars to three men who then established gaming facilities in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. It was also reported in 2010 DeGroote ran into businessman and long-time friend Andrew Pajak. According to CBC News, Pajak informed DeGroote he was working with brothers Antonio and Francesco Carbone of Vaughan, Ontario, on a company to manufacture slot machines, with plans on installing them at a Jamaican nightclub.

At first, DeGroote agreed to pony up $5 million in December 2010, but by May 2012, his underwriting of the operations was at $111.9 million. The company, the Dream Group, was paying back on the loans, but simply stopped paying in May 2012. Then, in November 2013, a Canadian judge ruled DeGroote had established “a strong case” for fraud.

In May of that year, DeGroote claims to have been paid a visit by two men with questionable pasts. One was Peter Shoniker, a former Crown attorney “who had been convicted of money laundering in 2006.” The other was a “large, broad-chinned man” introduced as Alex Visser. DeGroote claims to have been unaware of Visser’s history, which includes “more than 40 convictions in Canada for fraud, uttering threats, and assault.”

According to CBC News, when the men met, Visser made a “stunning offer,” claiming he would be able to get the Dream employees in the Dominican Republic to sign affidavits saying the Carbones severely defrauded DeGroote, but only for a hefty price. While DeGroote had no interest at first, the men eventually negotiated a price, which culminated in DeGroote offering to send Visser $150,000 with “no strings attached” for help.

DeGroote has declined to be interviewed, but his only on-the-record statement regarding the ordeal, issued through his lawyers stated, “Frankly, I sincerely regret that I ever agreed to invest in this venture, I am embarrassed by it.” His lawyers also added, “Mr. DeGroote is someone who has been wronged, rather than a wrongdoer.”