Hotelier Clifton Bacchus today filed a $2 billion lawsuit against the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper following its publication of two recent articles which he has described as “highly defamatory.”
Guyana National Newspapers Limited, which is the publisher of the Guyana Chronicle, and the editor of the Guyana Chronicle were listed as the defendants in the suit, which was filed by a team of lawyers headed by former Attorney-General Anil Nandlall. Bacchus is the owner of Sleepin hotel chain and a casino. The latter is not yet in operation.
According to the Statement of Claim, which was seen by Stabroek News, Bacchus is asking for damages in excess of $1 billion for libel published on August 15, 2017, on the front page of the Guyana Chronicle and continuing on page 3 under the headline: “Tracking the money…Sleepin boss, associate snared in money laundering probe… SOCU tells Gaming Authority investigation on since 2016.”
He is also asking for a similar amount in damages for libel published on August 17, 2017, on the front page of the same newspaper and continuing on pages 2 and 8 under the headline: “THE DUTCH CONNECTION… Sleepin Casino Surinamese partner was jailed for money laundering…Bacchus was quizzed about permission to import slot machines.”
Additionally, the court is being asked to grant an injunction restraining the defendants by themselves, their servants and/or agents and each from publishing any statement concerning Bacchus which suggests or tends to suggest or convey the impression that he and his business are engaged in, connected to, associated with and/or funded by money laundering, drug trafficking and/or drug smuggling and/or from any criminal conduct and/or from criminal proceeds derived from illicit and/or criminal activities.
The application for the injunction is fixed for a hearing on Friday at 3 pm before Justice Sandil Kissoon.
It was stated that the defendants falsely and maliciously published the damaging articles “boldly and sensationally” on the dates cited. It was further stated that after the first article, Bacchus issued a public statement but this was seemingly ignored as two days later the newspaper published a second story that was also false and malicious.
Bacchus said that the articles are understood to mean that he is engaged in money laundering, drug smuggling, forgery and other criminal activities; that he is connected to or associated with persons engaged in such activities; that he is part of an international criminal enterprise of such activities; that his business, including his international hotels and intended casino are funded and financed by money launderers, drug traffickers, forgers and other criminals; that he is a criminal engaged in numerous criminal activities; and that his business are all part of an international criminal enterprise.
It was pointed out that on August 17, 2017, Bacchus caused his attorney to write the defendants seeking both an apology for and a retraction of the offending articles but to date this has not been forthcoming.
“In consequence, the Claimant’s reputation and character as a businessman, husband and father have been seriously injured and that his business of international hotels have been tarnished and immeasurably damaged,” the document stated.
The document stated too that the facts to support a claim for exemplary damages are that the articles complained of were published as lead stories in bold and blazing headlines with huge photographs of Bacchus and his property; the second publication was made even though a public statement was issued explaining the source of his funding and denying allegations made in the first publication; and the articles complained of were published with the full knowledge that Bacchus’s application for a casino licence is pending with the Gaming Authority and that such adverse publicity could irretrievably damage his prospects of success thereof. “As a result of the publications complained of, the Claimant has also suffered public humiliation, ridicule, odium, anguish, pain and suffering. As a result of the publications complained of, the Claimant has also suffered irreparable financial loss and damage,” the document added.
Bacchus claims that his business is a multi-million dollar investment comprising of a new 150-room facility on Church Street complemented by restaurants, a gym, a swimming pool, a spa, bars and a building specifically constructed and designed to accommodate a casino. The court document states too that Bacchus’ hotels are “among the most popular and patronised …and attract customers from both Guyana and from the Caribbean, North and South America, Europe and other parts of the world.”