A British couple have been awarded more than one million U.S dollars by a high court judge in Grenada against Ambassador Peter deSavary over a deal that went sour on a promise to build a hotel on the famed Grand Anse beach.
High court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed last week Wednesday delivered the written judgement in the Number 3 high court in a matter involving Bruce and Suzanne Mc Ness against Spiceland Limited that is controlled by deSavary, another British subject.
Appearing for the developer of the Lagoon marina project was Queen’s Counsel Dr. Francis Alexis in association with the law firm of Joseph & Joseph that involves President of the Senate, Lawrence Joseph and his wife Anande Trotman-Joseph while the British pair had secured the services of Senior Counsel from neighbouring Trinidad, Douglas Mendes in association with Delany & Associates out of Barbados.
Justice Mohammed used harsh words in her 23-page judgement to describe the evidence given by deSavary in his defense following the lawsuit filed against him in the local court.
The judge said that at times the evidence given by deSavary “was at best tenuous and inconsistent” and she was not impressed with “the weak explanation” offered by the multi-million dollar investor on his application to government seeking concessions for the promised hotel on the Grand Anse beach.
deSavary, appointed a Special Ambassador by a former Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s, is now a key player in the plans by the one-year old New National Party (NNP) administration to raise funds for the Treasury through the sale of Grenadian passports.
A search on the internet showed that deSavary along with local barrister-at-law, Michelle Emmanuel-Steele, the wife of Foreign Affairs Minister, Nickolas Steele were jointly promoting themselves in an association to woo clients to purchase the passports.
Suzanne Mc Ness is a female lawyer in England and along with her husband Bruce who was described as “a professional trustee” had entered into an agreement in November 2007 with deSavary’s Spiceland Limited to purchase one of the villas that he was promoting as part of a multi-million dollar hotel that he had intended to build on the island.
The controversial deSavary had decided to embark on several development projects in Grenada under the 2003-08 New National Party (NNP) government of Dr. Mitchell when he acquired the yachting marina at the Grenada Yacht Services (GYS) in the Lagoon.
He purchased a few other properties on the island including Cinnamon Hill that was once owned by hotelier Richard Grey, a property that overlooks the Grand Anse beach.
Bruce and Suzanne Mc Ness decided to purchase a villa from the deSavary outfit at the asking price of US$972, 500.00 and decided to back out of the arrangement when the British developer allegedly failed to deliver on his promise to build the hotel.
Justice Mohammed was harsh on deSavary and chided him for giving flimsy excuses for his non-performance when he was cross-examined by the attorney for the British couple.
She said: “…Mr. De Savary’s evidence under cross-examination …was at best tenous (tenuous) and inconsistent. He first stated that in the application for planning approval he may or may not have been intending to develop a hotel. Then he said he could not explain what “Hotel” is being referred to in the application for approval for “the development of Hotel”. Yet he later admitted that in part he was applying to the authorities for permission to put a hotel on the beach which he called “Hotel” as depicted on the Master Plan but he then stated that the application for planning approval for “Hotel and living accommodation” was an error.
“If I am to accept Mr. DeSavary’s explanation that it was an error, then I have to accept that the Defendant misled the relevant authorities in its application for planning approval but there was no evidence presented by the Defendant to indicate that it attempted to correct this error with the planning authorities such as an amended application. Indeed there was no evidence to demonstrate that it was an error since it was based on this very same approval that the Defendant proceeded with the refurbishment of the buildings and additional construction at Mt. Cinnamon.
“I do not accept the weak explanation preferred by Mr De Savary that the application for “Hotel and living accommodation” was an error. Mr De Savary appeared to me to be a shrewd businessman with extensive experience in the area of tourism/hotel/real estate development for the last 36 years. In my view, any shrewd businessman who was about to undertake such an extensive project would have taken all the appropriate steps to ensure that the proper application was made in terms of the type of accommodation which the Defendant intended to provide at Mt. Cinnamon”.
Justice Mohammed also took the side of the Mc Ness in the face of assertion from deSavary that the Master Plan that he had for the hotel did not specify the exact nature of the hotel that he intended to build.
In her judgement, Justice Mohammed noted that, “The Master Plan was given to Mrs. McNess in March-April 2007. According to Mrs. McNess, Guy Gittens (an employee of deSavary) showed her the area on the beach which was earmarked for the luxury hotel. He told her that the Defendant had begun discussions with the Marriott Group and that as an owner of a villa she would have access to the hotel and its-up market facilities.
“This was in part consistent with Mr. De Savary’s evidence that the Claimants were informed by representatives from the Defendant that it was in discussions with owners of hotel brands but that these were only exploratory discussions. Mr. De Savary was adamant that his representatives, Guy Gittens, Mark Scott, and Robin Chapman all told him that they did not represent the “precise nature of a hotel to be constructed” to the Claimants but this was inconsistent with Mrs. Mc Ness evidence that Guy Gittens showed her the area on the beach which was earmarked for the luxury hotel.
“In the absence of Mr. Gittens being present to refute Mrs. Mc Ness assertion, I accept Mrs. Mc Ness evidence. I cannot accept Mr. De Savary’s assertion since he simply was not part of that conversation.
In the multi-million dollar judgement against the deSavary outfit, the judge ordered that his company repurchase the promised villa for which the English couple had secured a loan from a local commercial bank to enter into the arrangement with the Port Louis Developer.
The order of the court was that:
* The Defendant is to repurchase the villa at the price of US $972,500.00.
* The Defendant is to pay interest on the sum of US $972,500.00 at the rate of 7.5% per annum from the 13th April, 2010 to the date of payment.
* The Defendant is to pay the Claimants legal fees, stamp duty and charges paid pursuant to the purchase of the Villa in the sum of US $22,996.25.
*The Defendant to pay the Claimants prescribed costs to be calculated by the parties.
NB: In the next issue of THE NEW TODAY, an edited version of the judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed against the deSavary company would be published.