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DIHL, Government matter returns for new assessment

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The De Freitas Investment Holding Ltd. (DIHL) versus the Government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines matter is heading back to the Land Acquisition Act Board of Assessment for a new assessment.{{more}}

The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, on November 25 last year, allowed for an appeal of the matter and ordered that it be remitted to the Board for a new assessment.

This comes after an appeal filed on October 30, 2008, and counter- appeal on November 12, 2008, by the Government and DIHL, respectively, of a decision made by the Board in 2008 regarding the amount that Government should pay the company for a property located at Murray’s Road, which it acquired from the De Freitases in June 2004. The Government had offered to pay $1,743,785 for the property.

On October 3, 2008, the Board, headed by High Court Judge Frederick Bruce-Lyle, ordered the Government to pay DIHL $4,140,000 in costs and compensation for the Murray Road property, where it operated a subsidiary, Trans Caribbean Traders Ltd, under Managing Director of DIHL Marcus DeFreitas, a former Minister of Government in the New Democratic Party administration.

Within a month of the Board’s order, lawyer Richard Williams filed an appeal on behalf of the Government. He presented 17 grounds of appeal to the court. His arguments outlined that the Board had failed to take into account that the business carried on by DIHL on the land was unlawful and that the use of the land was unlawful, illegal and constituted a detriment to public health.

Williams added that the Board’s method of computing the award for loss of profit was wrong and that DIHL had failed to provide any evidence of loss at the relevant date and, as a result, the Board was not entitled to make an award for loss of profit.

Williams requested reliefs that the appeal be allowed, that DIHL be compensated in the sum of $1,743,785 and that DIHL pay the Government’s cost in the Court of Appeal.

When DIHL had taken the Government to court, it had filed for $6,810,933.63 in compensation for the property and business. In addition to the $4,130,850 claimed for the land and buildings, DIHL had made a submission for an additional $2,680,083.63 for “loss of business, loss of profit, loss of potential profit, and deprivation of business as a going concern.”

Andrew Cummings Q.C. and Joseph Delves appeared at the Court of Appeal on the behalf of DIHL.

Cummings, in his three-point ground of appeal, outlined that the Board had erred in its decision that there was no goodwill when there was sufficient evidence and supporting law so to find in the company’s favour.

He further contended that the Board had also erred in awarding DIHL $370,000 for loss of profit instead of its claim for loss of business, loss of profit and deprivation of business as a going concern in the sum of $2,680,083.63.

Thirdly, Cummings noted that the Board had wrongfully exercised its discretion when it awarded costs of $20,000 to DIHL, in that the Board had ignored the principles in the exercise of its discretion relating to the award of costs in DIHL’s favour.

The lawyers representing DIHL sought reliefs from the Court of Appeal that the company’s appeal be allowed and that the Government pay the company’s cost in the Court of Appeal and in the Board of Assessment.

The matter was heard by President of the Appeal Court Ola Mae Edwards and Justices of Appeal (Ag.) Albert Redhead and Jefferson Cumberbatch.