Attorney General, (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams, has said that responsibility for the multi-million dollars in judgments and settlements by the State in the last few years rests with the previous administration.
The AG office has been under intense criticism from members of the previous government and the public who accused Williams of possible corrupt dealings in court settlements amounting to some US $425 million.
During a Press Conference at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Carmichael Street Office, yesterday, Williams sought to defend the settling of the judgments.
AG Williams argued that some matters could not be appealed since many of those cases had become “incurable.”
“What we found in many cases is that you would actually have the defence stated in pleadings but it is not argued, not asserted before the court. So you can’t do anything about it,” he said.
In an appeal if an issue was not argued (in the lower court), it could not be raised at the higher court- Guyana Court of Appeal or Caribbean Court of Justice, he said.
Additionally, Williams noted that he inherited a list of judgment debt cases from the PPP/C Government.
He told the media that many of the cases were outsourced to Attorneys outside the AG Chambers without any record.
The Legal Affairs Minister said that many of lawyers failed to inform or hand over those cases, even after inquiries were made, as in the Dipcon Engineering and Toolsie Persaud cases.
Williams said several lawyers have been written to. They were Bernard DeSantos SC; Ralph Ramkarran SC; Neil Boston, SC; Robin Stoby, SC; Sase Gunraj; Ashton Chase SC; Nigel Hughes, Roysdale Forde and Manoj Narayan.
The Chambers only received a list of the State cases before the courts after writing to the Chancellor and Chief Justice, he said.
According to Williams, notices were also placed in the dailies, requesting information regarding cases. Minister Williams hinted that criminal proceedings may be filed against those lawyers who are withholding information.
Some of the matters in which judgment was granted against the State included Rudisa Beverages -V- AG – $7.2 Billion, NH International L.T.D; Emile Elias-V- AG US$11M plus$403M, Toolsie Persaud Ltd-V- AG-$1.7B), Ministry of Communities—V-BK Int.-US$5.7M and NDIA –V- H.Sugrim-$226.1M.
In the Rudisa Case, Williams noted that the PPP/C Government had imposed an environmental tax on non-returnable beverage containers in breach of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“The CCJ noted that the Government of Guyana represented by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall did not lead evidence to show that tax was transferred as he claimed.
“In the NH INT, Emile Elias case involving a contract to build a road, which ended up at an Adjudication which in 2003, the PPP/C Government, allowed to proceed without any representation.”
Mr. Rex McKay S.C was left alone to argue NHEE’s case before the Adjudicator, Williams said.
Nandlall compounded the problem by appealing the matter to the CCJ through Attorney-at-law Mr. Roysdale Forde, on a point where the Government had appealed to the wrong Court. The CCJ didn’t take five minutes to dispatch the appeal, Williams said.
In the BK INT matter, on assuming office AG Williams was told Nandlall had taken a decision to pay BK $225 million for services rendered despite repeated breaches by BK of the Haags Bosch Contract.
The court ruled in favour of BK who had sued the Government for breach of contract, holding that he was entitled to remain on site. AG Williams claimed that he refused to pay that sum and caused an appeal to be filed against this decision and, due to the site being consumed by smoke, which affected neighbouring Communities.
“The IDB wanted BK off; a settlement was agreed between BK and his team, Minister of Communities and his team and the AG and his team.
He said that Cabinet gave its seal of approval.
“Nandlall left the new Government with crippling judgment debts, and ill-prepared cases involving hundreds of millions of dollars,” Williams said.
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