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The proposed freezing order is the latest move by the monitor, Ernst & Young Inc., to try to recover losses stemming from the collapse of Bondfield.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The court-appointed monitor for Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd. is asking a judge to freeze the assets of the company’s former chief executive officer, including bank accounts and real estate properties scattered across Ontario, some of which are slated for housing developments.

The proposed order would apply to 22 properties in Ontario owned by John Aquino, who ran Bondfield for nearly a decade. Mr. Aquino has sold or transferred his interest in some of the properties to others over the past 2½ years, including a luxury condo in Toronto’s Four Seasons building. The proposed order would freeze $3.9-million in proceeds from the condo sale, and prohibit Mr. Aquino from selling other assets, including a unit in a Trump Tower condo in Miami.

The proposed freezing order is the latest move by the monitor, Ernst & Young Inc., to try to recover losses stemming from the collapse of Bondfield, which had been one of Ontario’s largest builders of public-sector projects until it sought creditor protection in 2019.

PROPERTIES THE MONITOR FOR

BONDFIELD SEEKS TO FREEZE

The court-appointed monitor for Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd. is seeking to freeze 22 properties in Ontario plus a condo in Florida linked to former chief executive officer John Aquino. The monitor, Ernst & Young Inc., alleges in documents filed in court that Mr. Aquino owns an interest in most of the properties and has sold his stake in others.

Commercial property

Condo unit

Proposed development

House

0

20

Innisfil

KM

Lindsay

404

400

Whitby

407

Caledon

Toronto

Lake

Ontario

401

U.S.

403

Cambridge

Four properties

*Not shown on the map is a condo unit in Miami, Florida and a proposed housing development site in Kingston, Ontario.

GRAPHIC BY MURAT YÜKSELIR, RESEARCH BY RICK CASH, KAREN HOWLETT, GREG MCARTHUR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: COURT DOCUMENTS FILED BY THE MONITOR FOR BONDFIELD; TERANET

PROPERTIES THE MONITOR FOR BONDFIELD

SEEKS TO FREEZE

The court-appointed monitor for Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd. is seeking to freeze 22 properties in Ontario plus a condo in Florida linked to former chief executive officer John Aquino. The monitor, Ernst & Young Inc., alleges in documents filed in court that Mr. Aquino owns an interest in most of the properties and has sold his stake in others.

Commercial property

Condo unit

Proposed development

House

Lake

Simcoe

0

20

KM

Innisfil

Lindsay

404

400

Whitby

407

Caledon

Toronto

Lake

Ontario

401

U.S.

403

Cambridge

Four properties

*Not shown on the map is a condo unit in Miami, Florida and a proposed housing development site in Kingston, Ontario.

GRAPHIC BY MURAT YÜKSELIR, RESEARCH BY RICK CASH, KAREN HOWLETT, GREG MCARTHUR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: COURT DOCUMENTS FILED BY THE MONITOR FOR BONDFIELD; TERANET

PROPERTIES THE MONITOR FOR BONDFIELD SEEKS TO FREEZE

The court-appointed monitor for Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd. is seeking to freeze 22 properties in Ontario plus a condo in Florida linked to former chief executive officer John Aquino. The monitor, Ernst & Young Inc., alleges in documents filed in court that Mr. Aquino owns an interest in most of the properties and has sold his stake in others.

Lake

Simcoe

Legend

Innisfil

Lindsay

Commercial property

Condo unit

House

Proposed development

404

400

Whitby

407

Caledon

401

Toronto

Lake

Ontario

401

U.S.

0

20

403

Cambridge

KM

Four properties

*Not shown on the map is a condo unit in Miami, Florida and a proposed housing development

site in Kingston, Ontario.

GRAPHIC BY MURAT YÜKSELIR, RESEARCH BY RICK CASH, KAREN HOWLETT, GREG MCARTHUR /

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: COURT DOCUMENTS FILED BY THE MONITOR FOR

BONDFIELD; TERANET

A judge has yet to hear arguments about whether to grant the order and Mr. Aquino’s response to the proposed freeze has not been filed on the website for the monitor. A lawyer for Mr. Aquino did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment.

Bondfield had been one of Ontario’s fastest-growing construction companies and was awarded more than $800-million in contracts from Infrastructure Ontario, the procurement arm of the provincial government, in quick succession between 2014 and 2015. Some of those projects – the redevelopment of both St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto and Cambridge Memorial Hospital in Southwestern Ontario – are more than two years behind schedule.

In 2018, Zurich Insurance Company Ltd., which had guaranteed completion of Bondfield’s projects through more than $1-billion in surety bonds, became more actively involved in the company’s affairs after Bondfield was bombarded with lawsuits from unpaid subcontractors.

In October of that year, Bondfield terminated Mr. Aquino from his position as CEO. He was replaced by Steven Aquino, his younger brother, who took the company into bankruptcy protection. The company was founded by their father, Ralph Aquino, 45 years ago.

A forensic investigation launched by Ernst & Young alleged that John Aquino participated in a scheme to siphon $80-million out of Bondfield through the use of false invoices. The probe alleged that, over an eight-year period, Bondfield paid millions to a number of companies that don’t appear to have any real operations for work that was never performed. Some of that money allegedly flowed back to three former Bondfield executives, including $5.2-million to John Aquino. The monitor has taken legal action against John Aquino and the other participants in the alleged scheme to recover funds.

In an affidavit responding to Ernst & Young’s allegations, John Aquino has stated: “I am implicated in a matter that I believe is without merit.” His lawyer, Michael Citak, has also said that the monitor’s report “is at best incomplete and one-sided.”

In December, Ernst & Young obtained an order to freeze the proceeds owed to John Aquino from the sale of a $12.5-million commercial building that Mr. Aquino owned, in part, through a numbered company. That order is under appeal. The monitor’s latest application, however, is far broader and seeks to restrain him, and others, from “dissipating [his] assets, wherever situated.”

The legal move was prompted, the monitor says in court filings, by a transaction that John Aquino entered into with his wife, Cinzia Aquino.

On Dec. 18, 2019, Mr. Aquino transferred his interest in their jointly owned Toronto home to his wife for $2, the monitor alleges. The transaction took place less than a week after the monitor appeared in court to argue for the first freezing order.

Ernst & Young says it is “concerned that the sole purpose" of the $2 transfer to Mr. Aquino’s wife is to prevent the monitor from targeting the property as it seeks to recover assets on behalf of Bondfield’s creditors. The monitor has also identified six Toronto properties in which Mr. Aquino “appears to have had an interest” – including a unit in the upscale Four Seasons Private Residences – that were sold between August, 2017, and December, 2018. The total proceeds from those sales were $12.3-million.

Relying on an Excel spreadsheet located on the hard drive of Bondfield’s former chief financial officer, the monitor says it has also identified more than a dozen other Ontario properties that John Aquino owns, in part, through various corporations. Several of these properties are large swaths of land that were slated for the development of condominium buildings or houses. These include a proposed condominium building in Cambridge, Ont., about 100 kilometres west of Toronto, and a 257-townhouse complex in Kingston in Eastern Ontario.

Some of these properties are owned, in part, by other investors. The monitor is only seeking to freeze John Aquino’s interest in those assets. There is no allegation that any of the other owners of those properties participated in the alleged false-invoice scheme.

The monitor’s freezing application is scheduled to be argued in court in late March.

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