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Ottley Hall Inquiry given all clear to continue

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The Privy Council this week struck out an application brought by former Chairman of the National Commercial Bank, Richard Joachim and former Communications and Works Minister Glenford Stewart in the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard Project matter.

The announcement of the court’s decision was made by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves as he addressed the opening of the Questelles Learning Resource Centre on Monday.

The path is now clear for the recommencement of hearings in the inquiry which last heard testimony on May 19, 2004, before being stalled by legal challenges.{{more}}

The suit brought against Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan and sole Commissioner of the Inquiry Justice Ephraim Georges sought to have the instrument appointing the Commissioner declared as “invalid, null and void,” and alleged that “there was a real likelihood of bias in the Commissioner.” The Appeal was thrown out with costs to Attorney General Jones-Morgan and Justice Georges.

The suit had been previously struck out by the High Court on July 2, 2004 and the East Caribbean Court of Appeal in January 2005.

Both Joachim and Stewart were down to testify in the Commission of Inquiry into what transpired in the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard Project.

In April 1995, the Project, which had been hailed by the Sir James Mitchell Administration as one of the New Democratic Party’s flagship projects was reported to be in serious financial trouble. Reports indicated that there was a shortfall of EC$10 million in its accounts, and its financial commitments for March could not be met.

The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines had guaranteed a loan of EC$135 million paid by a German bank to Caribbean Chartered and Yacht Holding Ltd (CCYY) which was the company developing the Ottley Hall Project.

In 1996, the EC$225 million project was valued at EC$48.6 million by auditing firm Coopers and Lybrand.

British attorney Keir Starmer QC and Nicole Sylvester of St Vincent and the Grenadines represented Joachim and Stewart. Attorney General Jones-Morgan and Justice Georges were represented by Alair Shepherd QC and Joseph Delves.

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