Appeal Court throws out SARA appeal against GBTI

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The State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) has suffered another loss at the hands of the court, with the Appeal Court dismissing its appeal against the throwing out of its case for recovering money from the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI).

During a session at the Appeal Court on Monday, it is understood that the court dismissed SARA’s appeal against the local financial institution. Moreover, GBTI was also awarded the sum of G$4.9 million in costs.

SARA had been seeking G$274.1 million, plus interest, from the bank. The claim had to do with the acquisition of land at the Kingston Seawall, where GBTI built one of its branches. SARA alleged that when the bank bid for and acquired the right to purchase this land, it was the fourth-highest of 14 bids. SARA had claimed that GBTI’s purchase price of G$224 million is less than the most recent valuation of the property at the time.

However, the High Court had ruled in favour of the bank in November on the grounds that SARA did not present a well-grounded cause of action together with the fact that the Agency was not the properly constituted legal entity to bring the case.

The court ruled that since the case was not brought by a Managing Director or Deputy Director, as set out in the State Assets Recovery Act 2017 that formed SARA, the proceedings filed in the statement of claims were rendered void.

According to the court, such claims can only be brought by either of the aforementioned people. In an interview with this publication, one of GBTI’s lawyers had explained at the time that since the process to appoint the SARA Director was flawed, its locus standi was also flawed.

SARA was created when the State Assets Recovery Act was passed in the National Assembly in 2017. It is mandated to recover unlawfully acquired State assets through civil procedures. However, the parliamentary Opposition has also maintained that the cases it did pursue were aimed at harassing political opponents.

Both SARA and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), which have both been hit by these accusations, have failed to successfully prosecute any case. In fact, GBTI featured prominently in one of several such cases to be thrown out by the court.

Back in March of last year, contempt of court charges brought by SOCU against eight top executives of GBTI were thrown out by the Magistrates’ Courts. The matter stemmed from the matter in October 2017, when SOCU charged the bank’s Directors with contempt based on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The contempt proceedings stemmed from the bank’s alleged failure to comply with a production order made by acting Chief Justice Roxane George on August 29, 2017.

The bank had contended in its application for the variation of the order granted by Justice George that countless efforts were made to gather all the documents requested but it was discovered that some were either destroyed or could not be found.

The documents were pertinent to the US$500 million Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) probe that was being conducted by SOCU. The GRDB case has also since been thrown out by the local courts.

GBTI was represented by Luckhoo & Luckhoo Law Firm.