GNIC replies to NICIL in lease debt case

The Guyana National Industrial Company Inc (GNIC) on Wednesday filed a reply in the case brought against it by government holding company, the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), to recover money which it says it is owed for leased land.

The matter was heard in the chambers of Justice Rishi Persaud in the Commercial Court of the High Court in Georgetown.

Arguments on the affidavits filed in the matter are set to commence on May 2.

The matter was previously on course for settlement and has so far seen GNIC paying $108 million of the $148 million it owes NICIL.

At a February 8 hearing, attorneys on both sides had said that the two companies were going to work out payment of GNIC’s outstanding balance. GNIC paid an initial sum of $60 million to NICIL on February 1 and a second payment of $48 million a week later.

Disputes, however, subsequently arose over the amount still owing. As a result, attorneys Timothy Jonas and Neil Boston SC, for NICIL and GNIC, respectively, subsequently opted for the court to decide

NICIL had made an application to have GNIC liquidated. Court documents seen by Stabroek News show that on March 14, last year, NICIL applied to have GNIC wound up by the court under the provisions of the Companies Act since NICIL had decided that the company was unable to pay its debts.

The application also offered the court the option of granting any such other order which shall be just.

The application came after GNIC failed to pay the $148,860,870 award granted to NICIL in 2013. NICIL had approached the court to resolve the issues surrounding the land which it had leased to GNIC.

GNIC, a company owned by Laparkan and the National Engineering Company (NEC), had purchased the assets of the former Guyana National Engineering Corporation (GNEC) and had leased Lots 1-12, Lombard Street, as part of the privatisation of GNEC.

NICIL reduced the rent due from GNIC by 50% in 2000, and the sale price of equipment by 30% in 1995.

Despite these concessions, GNIC had failed to honour its obligations to pay under the lease, and the matter had been forwarded for arbitration in July, 2009.

In 2013, arbitration proceedings for unpaid rent resulted in an award of $148,860,870 in favour of NICIL for the period 2006 to 2009.

According to a press statement from that period, the ruling of the tribunal was based on extensive reviews of exhibits tendered, pleadings, written submissions, and notes of cross-examination of NICIL’s then Executive Director Winston Brassington and GNIC’s Chief Executive Officer Clinton Williams.

The Government of Guyana, as NICIL’s shareholder, had pledged to implement the tribunal’s ruling with careful attention to the interest of the workers of GNIC, as it remained steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that the livelihood of the employees of GNIC was not affected by the acts of NICIL.

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