A decision taken almost 20 years ago by a former New National Party
(NNP) government against a foreign construction company from Trinidad & Tobago is coming back to haunt current Prime Minster Dr. Keith Mitchell.
THE NEW TODAY can report that local attorney-at-law, Celia Clyne-Edwards has filed documents in the Supreme Court Registry aimed at getting a high court judge to order Dr. Mitchell as Minister of Finance to pay an estimated EC$25 million dollars to Dipcon Engineering for breach of contract, the Theodore family of Grand Anse for compensation due for the acquired Hog Island and two other individuals.
The female Queen’s Counsel has approached the high court for leave to
file an application for an Order of Mandamus to command Dr. Mitchell to pay the millions owed to her clients or be sent to jail at the Richmond Hill prison for disobeying a court order.
Four matters have been filed before the court – Dipcon Engineering vs Keith Mitchell (Claims No. 0135 of 2014), Evelyn Theodore vs Keith Mitchell (Claim No. 0134 of 2014), Ray Sylvester vs Keith Mitchell (Claims No. 0172 of 2014), and Phyllis Regis vs Keith Mitchell (Claim No. 0133 of 2014).
The matters should have been heard on Tuesday before Justice Margaret Mohammed in High Court No.3 but the court has been closed since the building on the Carenage waterfront is deemed to be unfit to accommodate sittings.
No date has been given for a rescheduled hearing.
Clyne-Edwards is seeking payment of EC$17 million for Dipcon Engineering, a Trinidad-owned Company, as well as EC$ 7 million for the Theodore family, and approximately EC$100, 000.00 each for two other locals.
This newspaper has been reliable informed that the last payment made by the State to Dipcon was for EC$200, 000.00 in May 2011 under the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Tillman Thomas.
According to a high-level legal source, Clyne-Edwards has sent several letters to the new Mitchell government in connection with payments but has not been able to get any monies from them for her clients in the past 14 months.
The cash-strapped regime has defaulted on payments to creditors since returning to office following its clean 15-0 sweep in the February 2013 poll to defeat Congress.
The source said that Clyne-Edwards is particularly annoyed over the government’s handling of the Hog Island compensation issue since the foreign developers who were given the lands had made available the money to a former Mitchell government for handing over to the Theodore family.
He spoke of the then Minister of Finance, Anthony Boatswain sending an official letter to Clyne-Edwards in 2007 assuring her that the monies would be handed over to her within a month.
“The government got the money (for the Theodore’s) and never paid it”, he said.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the Labour party government of late Prime Minister, Eric Gairy was the one that had acquired Hog Island and Mt. Hartman for a foreign concern that had promised to build Condominiums for sale at a price of US$450, 000.00 each.
One of the major owners of the island, Lewis Theodore of Grand Anse died without getting the compensation monies from the State.
The move by Clyne-Edwards, which could see Prime Minister Mitchell committed to the Richmond Hill prison, is similar to the case brought by late QC Derek Knight against a former NNP Minster of Finance, Anthony Boatswain during the 1995-1999 term of the NNP.
Knight, a former Minister without Portfolio in a GULP government in the 1970’s, was able to get a judge to issue him with an Order of Mandamus to commit the Minister of Finance to the Richmond Hill prison for not making compensation payments to former Prime Minister Eric Gairy on properties that were confiscated by the State.
When Gairy was toppled from power in a March 13, 1979 coup d-etat by the leftist New Jewel Movement (NJM) of Maurice Bishop, one of the first acts of the new leaders was to seize a number of properties owned by the former Prime Minister.
The ex-Prime Minister returned to the country shortly after the collapse of the Grenada Revolution in October 1983 and took court action to get back his properties.
The court ordered the State to return the properties and to pay Gairy compensation to the tune of millions of dollars for loss of use.
With little or no money being paid by the State, Knight moved against Boatswain, the then Minister of Finance and brought him to court to explain the government’s non-compliance with a court order.
The then sitting judge, ordered the Minister of Finance to remain in court until certain payments were made the same day to Gairy, failing which Boatswain would be committed to prison for breach of a court order.
The Treasury made a payment and a frightened Boatswain was allowed to leave the precincts of the court.
The Trinidad owners of Dipcon Engineering took to the court for redress shortly after the Mitchell government took power in June 1995 and broke the contract that it had signed with the former Congress government of Prime Minister Sir Nicholas Brathwaite.
The company had built several networks of roads on the island but the Mitchell government opted to use the Kuwait-firm, CCC to do road construction on the island.