Full Court ruling clears way for cinema complex

Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang and Justice Rishi Persaud at a Full Court sitting last Friday discharged an injunction that blocked the construction of a multi-cinema complex and shopping mall at Area K, Plantation Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara.

Justice James Bovell-Drakes had granted that injunction on August 23 in favour of Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL), which had moved to the courts claiming that the land where the construction was to take place was rightfully theirs.

Multicinemas Guyana Inc. had purchased the land from National Industrial and Commerce Invest-ments Limited (NICIL) for $187 million in May this year.

Stabroek News understands that following the purchase, Multicine-mas submitted a proposal which included the building of a cinema and a mall to the tune of more than US$25 million.
Multicinemas is owned by the MovieTowne shopping complex located in Port of Spain, Trinidad. NICIL is responsible for state investments and the disposal of state assets.

Attorney Anil Nandlall appeared for NICIL and Ronald Burch-Smith for Multicinemas, while Robin Stoby and Rajendra Poonai entered an appearance for TPL.

Among the grounds for the discharge of the injunction was the fact that the court did not find that the allegations of fraud made by TPL against NICIL and Multicinemas were well founded.

The court also found that the title had already been passed even though TPL was seeking to stop the process. When the injunction had been granted by Justice Bovell–Drakes, the title had already been passed to Multicine-mas, which was the true purchaser for value without any notice of TPL’s alleged interest in the land.

Another ground was that at the time when the government sold the land to TPL in 1987, the government and Persaud mistakenly thought that government had owned the land by virtue of a Compulsory Acquisition Order (CAO). However in a subsequent ruling of the Guyana Court of Appeal in a different matter filed by Andrew James Investments Limited, it was declared that the CAO was null and void. That therefore meant that at the time of when the State sold the land to TPL, the state did not own the land. Both parties had been labouring under a common mistake.

Following the granting of the August 23 injunction by Justice Bovell-Drakes, which restrained NICIL and Multicinemas or their agents from passing and/or receiving title of property as well as barring them from entering or occupying the land, Nandlall and Multicinemas filed ex-parte applications to discharge. On August 26 Justice Bovell-Drakes refused the applications. It was at this point that the Full Court was approached.

According to an affidavit in support of the motion for the injunction to be discharged, NICIL Chief Exe-cutive Officer Winston Brassington noted that TPL, on January 21, 1993, filed a petition seeking a declaration of title that under the Title of Land Act, it had acquired, among other things, title to the plot of land at Turkeyen.

The petition was dismissed by the High Court and that decision was upheld when TPL appealed to both the Guyana Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Brassington noted that since TPL’s petition for prescriptive title was dismissed, the ownership of the land remained vested in the state. He added that during the 15-year-long court proceedings by TPL, the state never attempted to dispose of or alienate the said land although it could have done so as the absolute owner thereof and without injunction from so doing.

On March 11, this year, Justice Brassington Reynolds had discharged an interim injunction and/or a conservatory order restraining the state from disposing the land. That judgement was appealed but no application restraining the state from disposing of the land was ever made.

In those circumstances, in the absence of any restrictions, the state transferred the property to NICIL who then sold same to Multicinemas.

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