Dr. Patrick Antoine, the Chief Policy Advisor to the 19-month old Keith Mitchell-led government is engulfed in a legal battle with True Blue resident, Alban Redhead over “disputed” Crown Lands in the area.
Dr. Antoine and his Barbadian lawyer, Dr. Richard Cheltenham were scheduled to appear Wednesday morning before the Court of Appeal now sitting in St. George’s to try and reverse the decision of high court judge, Justice Francis Cumberbatch who in 2011 ruled in favour of Redhead.
The New York-based True Blue resident took the high-ranking official of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government to court after Dr. Antoine allegedly ordered a bulldozer to move into the disputed lands and destroy the chain-link fencing that was erected by Redhead on the lands.
A bulldozer, owned by Bhagwan Trucking on September 26, 2006 tore down the fence much to the annoyance of Redhead who was visiting the island at the time of the incident.
The True Blue resident is the brother of Albert Redhead, the recently retired Justice of the OECS Court of Appeal.
Justice Cumberbatch had ruled against Dr. Antoine and ordered him and his company – Sigma Marine & Resorts Ltd – to pay over E.C$25, 000.00 in cost to Redhead for the damages that were done to the disputed property.
When the court assembled on Wednesday morning to hear the matter, female attorney-at-law Skeeta Chitan of Grant Joseph and Company told the Justices of Appeal that Dr. Cheltenham was on the island but fell sick in the early hours of the morning and could not be in court.
She said that due to his ill health an adjournment was being requested until the next sitting of the court.
Dr. Cheltenham was the top Barbadian lawyer who exonerated Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in a government-appointed commission of Inquiry in the 2003-08 period of rule following allegations that he accepted a bribe of US$500, 000.00 from imprisoned fraudster, Eric Resteiner in exchange for a diplomatic posting as a Grenadian envoy.
A source close to the Barbadian Queens Counsel said that a local doctor looked at him and suspected that he might be stricken with the Chik-V virus now sweeping through the island.
Redhead’s attorney, Ian Sandy did not object to the request for an adjournment in light of the “ill-health” of Dr. Cheltenham and the Justices of Appeal decided to put the matter onto the list for the next sitting of the Court on December 8.
Redhead told THE NEW TODAY this is the second time that he left New York for the court matter and Dr. Antoine and his attorney, Dr. Cheltenham have sought adjournments.
The Antoine/Redhead battle started soon after the senior government Economic advisor and Sigma purchased 61, 000 sq.ft of beach land property from government in 2005.
Documents seen by this newspaper indicate that Dr. Antoine and his outfit paid the state E.C$365, 904.00 for the lands in the upscale True Blue area which works out to just over EC$5.00 per sq.ft.
Another document obtained by Our News Desk showed that lands were being sold in the same True Blue area and within close proximity as high as EC$44 per sq. ft.
If the State had found a purchaser at EC$44 per sq.ft, the Treasury would have netted the handsome figure of EC$2.7 million for its 61, 000 sq. ft of land that was sold to Sigma for a mere $EC$365, 904.00.
Within days of purchasing the lands from government in a deal that was signed off by then Governor-General, Sir Daniel Williams, Dr. Antoine and Redhead had a square-off for a piece of land measuring 9, 548 sq. ft that was contained in the original 61, 000 sq.ft.
The court records showed that Redhead had purchased 23, 388 sq. ft of land in 1988 from a private individual in True Blue and proceeded to construct his dwelling home.
There was an adjoining 9, 536 sq. ft of land, which he took possession of and fenced it along with the lot that he had purchased from a lady.
Justice Cumberbatch who heard the matter ruled that Dr. Antoine failed to convince the court that the “disputed lands” that were now in possession of Redhead had ever been vested in the name of the Crown to be considered as State property.
In his ruling, the judge said: “No evidence has been adducted to the court that the disputed land was prior to 2005 vested in the Governor-General. I have examined the title deed exhibited by the Defendants (Dr. Antoine & Sigma). I find that it does not provide any historical information of the title of the disputed land.
“I find herein that the defendants whilst exhibiting a valid paper title have been unable to satisfy the Court that either themselves or those (the State) from whom they obtained title were in possession of the disputed land between the period 1988 to 2005.
“Apart from the bold assertions that the disputed land was Crown land during the time the Claimant (Redhead) occupied thereof, no evidence was presented to the Court to support or prove on a balance of probabilities that this was so”.
According to Justice Cumberbatch, he had no choice but to accept the “unchallenged evidence” of Redhead that he “cleared, cultivated and financially enclosed” the disputed land as part of his property.
The judge ordered Dr. Antoine and Sigma to pay cost of EC$15, 000 to Redhead, as well as a further US$ 2000.00 for damage to the chain link fence, $5000.00 in labour cost and a further US$ 800.00 for the shipping cost from New York to Grenada for material used in erecting the fence.
Back in 2006, Redhead had told local reporters that he was informed by a neighbour that Dr. Antoine had told him that he would bulldoze the chain-link fence to teach the True Blue resident a lesson.
Redhead also said that he got a local surveyor to speak with Dr. Antoine’s father in an effort to resolve the dispute but this was to no avail.
The Surveyor reportedly told him that the reaction from Dr. Antoine’s father is that they had the “authority” to remove the chain-link fencing that he had erected.