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(Donald Weber/Donald Weber)
(Donald Weber/Donald Weber)

How did $170 million go missing? Add to ...

It’s mostly an angry crowd. As Fred begins to rhyme off the allegations against them—and their denials—a few mutter under their breath, their arms crossed tightly.

Father and son offer to resign, saying they want to hand over their companies to “new leadership.” But the proposition is quickly forgotten. Then they plead for the shareholders to pitch in at least $95,000 for legal fees, including $55,000 to have the “illegal” judicial liens lifted on their other properties in the Dominican Republic so they can be sold, which Fred says would bring in a few million dollars.

During the question-and-answer period, a man yells at Fred and Derek, accusing them of overseeing the loss of “almost $90 million” and demanding an RCMP investigation. “Give me a break,” the man bellows. Most of the crowd claps.

Even when Fred tells the audience that he fell into a “deep depression” after the hotels were taken away, many in the crowd guffaw and shake their heads, though a few Elliott loyalists break into supportive applause. Later, the crowd erupts in bitter laughter when Derek is asked—twice—who owns one of the many offshore companies that bear the Elliott name, and eventually responds: “I’m not sure.”

Even Fred sounds skeptical at Derek’s plan to wage a court fight in the Dominican Republic to overturn the sale of Sun Village. The most shareholders should expect, he says, is a settlement from the new owners. Derek says the $10,000 in legal fees, paid for with a loan from his mother, are predicated on a 40% contingency fee for the lawyer on the case.

By the end of the night, the Elliotts have managed to cajole a few shareholders into sitting on an advisory committee that will decide what to do next. Two of the people whom Derek proposes are Jeffrey Eshun and Roger Blair, partners in a Toronto-area company, DSC Lifestyle Services, which promises clients “powerful wealth-building secrets.” Eshun did not attend, but Blair addressed the crowd, saying that he and his partner could “crystallize whatever asset base there is” on a “performance basis.” He was shouted down; neither ended up on the advisory committee. As it turns out, Eshun was fined $10,000 in 2006 by the Manitoba Securities Commission for selling securities without a licence.

Derek tells me he knew about Eshun’s problem with Manitoba authorities, and believed it was minor. “I always want to believe the best in people,” he says.

Even the Elliotts’ supporters appear to be under no illusion they will get their money back. Claude Eybel, a 71-year-old insurance broker from Binbrook, Ontario, is one of the shareholders who agreed to sit on the advisory committee. “I’m not hoping to get nothing,” says Eybel. “But I know Fred and Derek, I believe in them, and they wouldn’t have called this meeting if they didn’t feel we had a chance to get something back. And I don’t like what was done to them. ...I’m a true investor. I like to invest because I like to gamble.”

SIX DEGREES OF SUN VILLAGE Fred and Derek Elliott rubbed shoulders with an extraordinary variety of people—some famous, some infamous—during their run in the Dominican Republic.

Ben Affleck Derek raised money for the box-office bomb Man About Town, which starred Affleck.

Stephen Colvin The former publisher of Maxim signed a deal with Derek to promote the resort, including branded “Maxim Bungalows.” Later, after Maxim had changed hands, the deal ended in lawsuits.

Jean Chrétien The then-PM handed Derek a tourism award during an official visit to the Dominican Republic in 2003.

Deepak Chopra Derek is an avid fan of the self-help guru, and met him in Toronto through a mutual acquaintance.

Samuel L. Jackson He met Derek at a Toronto International Film Festival event co-sponsored by Derek’s Dominican film fest, an annual b-list event held at Sun Village.

Alex Shnaider The billionaire’s investment company put about $17 million into a land deal with Derek.

Amanda Bynes The actress starred in a teen comedy called Love Wrecked, shot at Sun Village. Derek is listed as executive producer and says it made the resort $350,000.

John Derringer The Toronto DJ gave away all-inclusive trips to Sun Village on his morning show, and got married at the resort in 2003.

Roy McMurtry Ontario’s former chief justice vacationed at Sun Village, say the Elliotts.

Bob Probert The former NHLer, who died this past July, participated in charity road-hockey games at Sun Village, along with Gary Leeman, Mark Napier and others.

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