Finance Minister Colm Imbert emerged victorious in his almost two-decade-long multi-million dollar legal battle with contractor Emile Elias.
In a majority judgement delivered yesterday, the Privy Council ruled that Imbert’s company National Stadium (Grenada) Corporation (NS) and not Elias’ company NH International (Caribbean) Ltd (NHIC) was entitled to over $55 million that was leftover from their construction of Grenada’s national stadium.
While four Law Lords, who sat on the panel, agreed that Imbert’s company was entitled to the money, which has been held on trust since the legal dispute began, Lady Mary Arden disagreed and delivered a dissenting judgement in favour of Elias’ company.
According to the evidence in the case, in 1997, Imbert’s other company Imbert’s Construction Services Limited (ICSL) entered into an agreement with the Grenadian government over the project.
Under the agreement, ICSL set up NS as a subsidiary and it agreed to arrange financing for the project and to lease the stadium to the Grenadian government. Transfer of the stadium eventually occurred in 2004 after the government clear its debt to NS under the terms of the contract.
NS and ICSL Grenandian subsidiary subcontracted the work to NHIC but moved to cancel the contract before the project was completed.
As NHIC claimed that it was owed approximately EC$7 million for work it had performed, it got an order from a court freezing NS’s account, which held the funds which were advanced for the project.
NS and ICSL eventually sourced other funding to complete the project.
NHIC brought separate arbitration proceedings against the companies and won.
In 2011, then High Court Judge Peter Rajkumat ruled that NHIC was entitled to the money that was held in escrow in an interest-bearing account in Clico Investment Bank and then the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC).
Imbert’s companies appealed and won their case before the Court of Appeal in 2018.
In the judgement, Lords Michael Briggs and Phillip Sales ruled that NS was entitled to the funds held on trust.
“The board would also observe that the outcome appears fair. NS assumed the obligation to repay the advances made to it under the Facility Agreement, including by issuing bonds on the amount of those advances. In this way, it was NS which provided the relevant consideration to acquire the money in the fund,” they said.
In her dissenting analysis, Lady Arden ruled that the under the agreement NS’ sole purpose was to receive the funds for the project and use it to pay contractors and suppliers.
She ruled that NHIC had an interest in the trust as it claims it is still owed money for the project.
Imbert’s companies were represented by Simon Hughes, QC, while James Ayliffe, QC, and Simon Atkinson represented NHIC.