The High Court has ruled in favour of the UK-based sugar management firm Booker Tate, ordering the Guyana Sugar Corporation to pay £664,750.91 ($204 million) for fees owed during the period it managed the industry.
In a ruling by Justice Rishi Persaud on February 20, 2015, GuySuCo lost two cases and the judge also dismissed the corporation’s counterclaim for damages due to insufficient evidence.
The legal battle has been ongoing since October 2010 when Booker Tate through its attorney Nigel Hughes took legal action, suing GuySuCo for millions owed for services rendered. Booker Tate had managed the sugar industry for around 20 years from 1990 but relations between it and the government soured around 2009 amid the construction woes surrounding the troubled Skeldon sugar factory and the contract was terminated.
In the first order entered on March 17th, 2015, Justice Persaud after reading the witness statement of Booker Tate’s Roger Speddy and the witness statement of then GuySuCo Chairman Dr Nanda Gopaul ordered that the plaintiff recover from GuySuCo the sum of £224,349 together with interest at 6% per annum from the 1st of October, 2010 to the 20th of February, 2015 and thereafter at the rate of 4% until fully paid together with costs of $150,000.
In the second order entered on March 19th, 2015 after reading the affidavit of defence of Aretha Adams, Assistant GuySuCo Company Secretary, the affidavit in reply of Speddy and other documents, the judge ordered that Booker Tate recover the sum of £345,589 together with interest at the rate of 2% per month from the date for payment of the invoice. The judge also ordered that Booker Tate recover from GuySuCo the sum of £94,811 together with interest at the rate of 1% per month from and including the due date of actual receipt of payment by the defendants together with costs of $150,000.
There is a stay of execution of six months on both orders.
GuySuCo has encountered severe financial difficulties and the judgment will add to its woes.
Booker Tate filed two claims in September 2010; one over the controversial Skeldon project and another for corporate management services it provided to the sugar corporation for an agreed period.
In the first statement of claim, Booker Tate had said that it entered into an agreement in March 2004 with the corporation for corporate management services which would continue until December 31, 2005, but in accordance with the agreement it was expected to continue for six months after the formal takeover and integration of the new Skeldon factory.
Booker Tate said that the services were provided, but the corporation failed to pay the £224,349 which was agreed on.
Additionally Booker Tate said that it was owed £94,811 pounds on the technical services agreement contract in addition to £345,589 pounds on the project management agreement.
Booker Tate stated that the services were provided as agreed and GuySuCo was issued with 29 invoices for the period 27/01/09 to 28/02/10 in the sum of £345,589. However, the corporation made no payments to the firm.
GuySuCo’s Chairman at the time, Dr Gopaul had blamed the firm for the ongoing problems at the factory, saying that Booker Tate was “incompetent” and had mismanaged the project. He added that Booker Tate also failed to address the concerns of the Chinese contracting firm for the Skeldon factory, CNTIC.
Booker Tate had for its part accused GuySuCo of prematurely terminating agreements which were entered into, including a project management service contract for the Skeldon Sugar Modernisation Project.
The litigation between GuySuCo and Booker Tate was recently reintroduced to the public by former President Bharrat Jagdeo, who last week confused the firm with the sugar corporation’s European sugar purchaser Tate and Lyle during a press conference at Freedom House.
Jagdeo noted that “maybe I should have intervened a bit more. Let me make it clear that sugar is a challenge. Clearly Skeldon has problems and Skeldon needs to be fixed, the board, the board, at that time made a decision to go with a particular contractor we hired Tate and Lyle to be the project manager…Tate and Lyle so we hired a top notch company to be the project manager to ensure the quality of the work because Jagdeo could not decide on design spec and all of that.”