Sep 15, 2022 News
…Judge says NICIL, not AG has right to challenge sale of riverfront property
Kaieteur News – Finding that it was an abuse of the court’s process, High Court Judge Brassington Reynolds on Wednesday dismissed the case filed by Attorney General Anil (AG) Nandlall SC against Former Finance Minister, Winston Jordan over the controversial sale of river front property to BK Marine.
Justice Reynolds in handing down his ruling pointed out that the Attorney General is not a proper party in the case and that it should have been filed in the name of the National Industrial Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL). He said that NICIL is the proper party to bring the case against BK Marine, the former Finance Minister et al. He held therefore that the Attorney General wrongly assumed the right to complain of matters that are within the legal province of NICIL and its Board of Directors.
He noted, “the NICIL is a limited liability company incorporated under the Company’s Act… “
“NICIL has a separate and distinct legal personality than that of its shareholders…”the judge outlined adding that the property at the middle of the contention ceased to be State-owned when it was vested in NICIL.
Additionally, Justice Reynolds noted that Jordan was authorised with powers under Section 8 of the Public Corporations Act to vest the property in NICIL. In the circumstances, the judge said the matter is an abuse of process, frivolous, scandalous, vexatious, and ought to be dismissed with cost. As such, the Judge struck out the matter and awarded cost in the sum of $2M each to Jordan and BK Marine both listed as defendants in the case.
In response to the decision, the AG has already indicated his intention to appeal. “This is a case that will go all the way… it’s a travesty of justice that cannot be allowed…” Nandlall said in a televised interview aired on state broadcaster- National Communications Network.
He said: “this decision is one of the most shocking that I have ever witnessed during my brief time at the bar,” adding that the case never even went to trial, when there are rules which essentially mandate a court to allow such matters to heard on its merits. Months after taking office as AG back in 2020, Nandlall lodged a claim in the High Court seeking to overturn the sale of the property, which according to him should have been valued at $5B but was sold to BK for a fraction of that figure.
The AG also listed the former CEO of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Colvin Heath-London, and the Registrar of Deeds as defendants in the proceedings. In addition to a court order to repossess the lands, the Attorney General had claimed damages in excess of $300 million against Jordan, Heath-London, and NICIL for loss and damages suffered as a result of negligence and/or breach of duty; loss and damages suffered as a result of conspiracy and/or breach of duty; and loss and damage suffered as a result of a breach of fiduciary duty. He claimed that Jordan colluded with NICIL and acted in a negligent manner to dispose of the State property.
But the former Finance Minister subsequently filed an application asking the High Court to dismiss a lawsuit. Jordan contended that the action brought against him over the sale of river front property to BK Marine, “is politically motivated, actuated by bad faith, vindictiveness, spite, constitutes an abuse of power, is frivolous and vexatious, and or scandalous.”
In court documents drafted by his attorney Roysdale Forde, SC, Jordan specifically claims, “action is indicative of political harassment” over the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections. That property situated at Mudlots 1 and 2, Lot F of Mudlots 3, and Lots A, B and D, North Cummingsburg was offered for sale to BK by then National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Horace James for $202,602,759. BK had only paid $20,260,276, a mere 10% of the purchase price when it was vested to NICIL by the then Minister of Finance Jordan on March 28, 2020. During that time, the country was also embroiled in a heated elections scandal.
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