Story by Derek Achong
A group of contractors have lost their bid to have a controversial lawsuit over contracts awarded in the run-up to the 2015 General Election dismissed at a preliminary stage.
Delivering an over 100-page preliminary judgement during a virtual hearing yesterday afternoon, High Court Judge James Aboud dismissed the application in which the contractors were calling for the striking out of the case if the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD) did not provide additional particulars on its allegations against them.
However, Aboud ruled that the EMBD had presented sufficient preliminary facts which should be determined by the court at an eventual trial.
“Someone has to explain at the appropriate time, in a way that is sensible, how it is that these unusual patterns, oddities and inconsistencies can exist other than by collusion by contractors,” Aboud said as he delivered his executive summary for almost two hours over his scheduled time.
Aboud was also careful to note that the parties sued and countersued by the EMBD are yet to file their defences in the substantive case and would be able to prove their cases that the alleged action complained about is unwarranted at the trial stage.
He said the EMBD could not be expected to expend funds to hire experts to analyse the evidence to the degree sought by the contractors until the application was determined, as it could be potentially a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Based on his decision, Aboud will have to now determine a series of other applications seeking to extend the time for the parties to file their defences before the case goes to trial.
The process may be delayed if the contractors decide, within the next seven days, to appeal Aboud’s decision.
The lawsuit centers around 12 contracts for the rehabilitation of roads and infrastructure which were granted to five contractors before the September 2015 General Election.
Contractors TN Ramnauth, Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit) and Kall Company Ltd (Kallco) initiated the proceedings against the State-owned special purpose company for the almost $200 million balance owed on their respective contracts.
The EMBD countersued the contractors, claiming that they, as well as contractors Fides and Namalco, conspired together with former Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, former EMBD CEO Gary Parmassar, former divisional manager Madhoo Balroop and engineer Andrew Walker to corruptly obtain the contracts.
It also claimed that the parties agreed to facilitate the contractors receiving preliminary payments for the work, which was allegedly overpriced and substandard and utilised a loan, meant to pay for other legitimate contracts, to make interim payments to the contractors.
Through the lawsuit, the EMBD is seeking a series of declarations against the parties, including one on the illegality of the contracts.
In his judgement, Aboud said based on his analysis of the evidence presented thus far and without the assistance of the defendants’ cases and experts, the EMBD had the strongest pleadings against Parmassar.
“Parmassar would have a lot to answer for at trial,” Aboud said.
Last week, lawyers representing contractors TN Ramnauth, Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit) and Kall Company Ltd (Kallco) wrote to Aboud seeking a deferral of his decision until after next week’s General Election, citing adverse commentary from the county’s main political parties.
Aboud, however, declined based on the fact that he had set the date for the long-outstanding decision before the election was proclaimed and because of his tight court schedule.
Contractors TN Ramnauth, Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit) and Kall Company Ltd (Kallco) are being represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, Jagdeo Singh, Kiel Taklalsingh and Karina Singh. Namalco was represented by Roger Kawalsigh.
Anand Ramlogan, SC, Alvin Pariagsingh and Ganesh Saroop represented Moonilal, who did not join in either the application to strike out the case or the proposal to postpone the decision. Fides was represented by Lynette Maharaj, SC.
The EMBD is being represented by David Phillips, QC, Jason Mootoo and Savitri Sookraj-Beharry.