Attorney General Cajeton Hood in a recent press conference purported to explain to the people of Grenada the matter of the Government’s decision to allow the freehold interest in the people’s prime property on the Grand Anse Beach now Raddison Grenada Beach Resort to be returned to Time Bourke Holdings (Grenada)Ltd (Time Bourke Holdings).
That explanation left those of us who listened with the burning question – whose interest was more important to the Government, the people of Grenada or Time Bourke Holdings or if not either of them, then whose.
The only answer one can sensibly come up with is that the Government placed NO importance on getting back the freehold in the property for the people of Grenada and at the same time recovering the annual lease rent of $250,000.00 for the Government’s coffers in these tough economic times with everyone being called on by the Government to make shared sacrifice.
On the eve of the 2008 elections on July 7th, the NNP Government conveyed the freehold in the peoples’ property (in excess of 20 acres on what most people will agree is the best location on the world famous Grand Anse beach) to Time Bourke Holdings with not one single cent paid by the Company to the Government’s coffers.
There was an agreement which was not even made a schedule or part of the Indenture of Conveyance for the Company to create a five star hotel on the property and for Lewis Hamilton to promote Grenada in his role as a world No 1 race car driver.
Tillman Thomas as leader of the NDC Government on assuming office in 2008 always promised the people of Grenada that his Government will do all that is possible within the law to have the freehold in that property returned to the people of Grenada.
Time Bourke Holdings through Lewis Hamiliton’s father admitted on a “You Decide Programme” that the Company made a decision to not go through with the agreement with Issa Nicholas to pay $40m for the leasehold of the property, which they apparently tried to renegotiate without success.
Imagine there was an agreement to pay Issa Nicholas $40m for the leasehold, but not one cent was paid to the Government’s coffers for the freehold.
The decision was made by Time Bourke Holdings to forego the deposit of $4m which was paid to Issa Nicholas rather than go ahead and pay the balance of $36m. It was therefore very dishonest as they usually are, when the NNP then in opposition kept telling the people that it was the fault of the NDC administration that the deal with Time Bourke Holdings and Issa Nicholas fell through.
Given this situation it was for the Government to now get back the freehold interest that was conveyed to Time Bourke Holdings by the NNP Government for not one cent being paid to the Government’s coffers.
In 2011, Time Bourke Holdings as the owner of the freehold sued Issa Nicholas for breach of the lease which it had with the Government.
Time Bourke Holdings was now the new owner of the freehold and landlord and the collector of the lease rent of $250,000.00 per annum.
In 2012, the NDC Government decided to use the legal power of acquisition to address the matter of the promise to the people to return the freehold in the property to the Government and people of Grenada.
Time Bourke Holdings demanded that the Government should pay $15m as compensation to it completely ignoring the fact that not one cent was paid to the Government’s coffers when the NNP Government conveyed the freehold in the property to the Company on July 7th, 2008.
In that same year 2012, Time Bourke Holdings filed a claim against the Government of Grenada claiming that the acquisition was politically motivated and not for a public purpose as the acquisition law required. This claim was vigorously defended by the then Attorney General Rohan Phillip.
One of the successes of Attorney General Phillip was getting the former Attorney General Jimmy Bristol who was acting as counsel for Time Bourke Holdings in the claim replaced as counsel on the grounds that there was a conflict of interest as he was the Attorney General in the Cabinet when the NDC Government was discussing the matter of its intention to have the freehold in the property returned to the people.
In July 2014 Time Bourke Holdings filed another claim against the Government alleging that the acquisition procedure as mandated in the law was not followed by the Government for the placement of two notices on the property.
In the press conference, the Attorney General said that the Government decided that since the Court in the recent case of the DeGale acquisition decided that the failure to place the two notices on the property made the acquisition null and void then the Government decided that it would concede in the Time Bourke Holdings case that the failure to place the two notices made that acquisition null and void just like the De Gale acquisition.
It should be observed that although the Time Bourke Holdings case filed in 2012 made no mention of a failure to place notices on the property, the Government decided that it would just accept that point in the 2014 case without even putting Time Bourke Holdings to proof of their new found allegation that no notices were placed on the property, in fact two years had passed before this allegation was made.
Again the question is – was the interest of the people being sought in these proceedings by the NNP Government.
Interestingly the primary concern of the NNP Government in the court proceedings was the non-payment of costs and the abandonment of the attempt made by the NDC Government to get back the freehold interest in that property to the people and the annual rental income for the Government’s coffers.
The reason given by the Attorney General for the Government’s position is that the Government did not want to continue to be in the way of the court matter between Time Bourke Holdings and Issa Nicholas, the Government did not want to be seen as obstructing the progress of the court matter between two investors.
This is refutable as the Civil Procedure Rules make provision for the substitution of parties if necessary. Indeed, the Government was the party with whom Issa Nicholas executed the lease agreement and is therefore the ideal party to a claim for breach of the terms of the lease.
At the end of day the Court on the 8th day of October, 2014 having read the case of Time Bourke Holdings and not a word in defense by the Government entered Judgement for Time Bourke Holdings, the purported acquisition was held to be null and void and the freehold was reverted to the Company.
It is very important to note that in the case of the DeGale property, following the Court ruling, the Government decided to repeat its attempt to acquire the property by carefully following the procedure in the law, however in the case of the Grand Anse Beach property the decision was to leave the freehold in the property with the Company that never paid one cent to the Government’s coffers and therefore pave the way for the Company to be able to collect the annual lease rent of $250,000.00.
Grenada loses and Time Bourke Holdings wins -courtesy the NNP Government.
On a related matter it should be observed that two major acquisitions of the NDC administration were botched by the failure of the public officer/s to ensure that the signs were placed on the property as required by the law.
Apparently in another case where there had to be an acquisition of property by the NDC Government the public officer responsible was very concerned that without the two notices the acquisition could not proceed.
It is therefore very odd that the officer would have overlooked the requirement to place the two notices on the Grand Anse Beach property and the De Gale property in St Patrick’s, two important acquisitions of the NDC administration.