Former APNU/AFC Govt Ministers facing multimillion-dollar lawsuits
Several former APNU/AFC Government Ministers are facing lawsuits before the Demerara High Court. Ranging from claims for defamation and malfeasance in public office, the former Ministers are being sued for tens of millions of dollars by Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, who has also filed proceedings against them on behalf of the State, as well as in his personal capacity.
Former Finance Minister Winston Jordan is being sued by the State for more than $300 million over the sale of lands located at Water or Mudlots 1 and 2; Lot F of Mudlot 3 and Lots A, B and D, North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, to BK Marine. Nandlall contended that the sale of the lands is illegal, unlawful, null, void, repugnant, and contrary to public policy as they were sold at a price below the market value.
“The property was sold at a gross undervalue and way below market value in relation to comparable and competitive facilities of a similar nature, form, and usage which was sold consistent with the market value,” he contended, adding that the management of NICIL, “…acted recklessly and without obtaining a Certificate of Value for the property in order to ascertain the current market value,” Nandlall argued.
As such, the Attorney General is also seeking to repossess the lands.
Former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, a Jamaican company Nevpro Realisation Limited, and two former officials of the said Ministry are being sued by the State over three weight-in-motion scales valued at $72 million that were paid for under the APNU/AFC Government, but never delivered.
Nandlall is asking the High Court to order Nevpro Realisation Limited of Haining Road, Kingston, Jamaica, to pay $50 million for loss and damages resulting from a breach of a contract dated December 6, 2016, for the supply and delivery of three Mettler Toldeo weight-in-motion scales.
He is also asking the court to order the company to return $72,450,000 that had been paid for the items as well as liquidated damages of $7,245,000.
Further, Patterson, former Permanent Secretary at the then Public Infrastructure Ministry Balraj Balram and then Engineer/Manager of the Special Projects Units Lawrence Mentis are being sued for $50 million for loss and damage due to negligence, malfeasance in public office, misuse, misapplication, and improper disposal of monies in violation of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.
The Attorney General is also suing former APNU/AFC Minister Jaipaul Sharma for libel and is seeking more than $25 million in damages over posts made about him via Facebook.
Court documents seen by this publication state that on November 17, 2020, Sharma, a former junior Minister of Public Infrastructure, referred to the PPP/C Government as “hypocritical” for going after coalition officials and others for questionable land deals using the office of the Attorney General.
In the Facebook post, Sharma claimed that Mohabir Nandlall & Associates, a law firm for which Nandlall was the senior and managing partner, was involved in some of these land transactions in which a large plot of land was transferred a few days after David Granger was sworn in as President in 2015.
Nandlall’s lawyers had written to Sharma, informing him that his post was not only libellous, but malicious and completely false, and is causing damage to the standing, integrity, and reputation of the law firm and Nandlall’s reputation. The Attorney General’s counsel had also demanded that Sharma retract the offensive publication and issue an apology immediately to their client and the law firm.
Sharma, however, did not even bother to issue the apology. Instead, Nandlall said, Sharma aggravated the libel by publishing another post reciting a conversation he had with him about the source of the information contained in his statement about the land transfer.
Nandlall submitted that the ordinary meaning of the publications gives the impression that he is dishonest, unprofessional, engaged in corrupt land deals and criminal activity, is violent, that the law firm engages in dishonourable and unlawful activities, and that he has taken steps to intimidate and threaten Sharma.
As a result of the publications, Nandlall deposed that he has suffered public humiliation, ridicule, odium, and anguish. In relation to the law firm, he added that it has suffered irreparable financial loss and damage resulting from the damage to his and its reputation.
Meanwhile, Former Junior Housing and Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson is being sued for $20 million by the Attorney General, who claims that she defamed his character in statements she made about him on March 22, 2020, in the presence of electoral observers, members of the diplomatic corps, and the media.
According to Nandlall, in the statements, Ferguson accused him of distributing identification cards on election day last year. In its natural and ordinary meaning, Nandlall said the words uttered by Ferguson mean that he has committed electoral fraud – a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.
Moreover, the Senior Counsel argued that her statements infer that he was actively aiding and abetting persons to commit electoral fraud, that he perverted the electoral process, and is unfit to hold public office. (G1)