Judge orders GuySuCo to pay costs for wasting time, changing lawyer without notice

-in Republic Bank $260M breach of contract suit

Republic Bank (Guyana) Ltd has sued the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for damages in excess of $260 million for what it says are sums owed for breach of contract and a judge on Monday ordered the sugar corporation to bear costs for wasting the court’s time and failing to inform of its plan to change lawyers.

When the matter came up for hearing on Monday, the court was delayed from proceeding with the trial, which had previously been set for that day, as GuySuCo indicated a change of its legal representation.

Company Secretary and Legal Officer Frederick Singh told Justice Navindra Singh of instructions he had gotten from Attorney General Basil Williams SC that attorney Anil Nandlall, who had been representing GuySuCo from the inception, would no longer do so.

Nandlall, the then Attorney General when the suit was initiated, had been the lawyer on record for the sugar company for more than three years. The matter was filed in November of 2014.

Though it has communicated a change in counsel, however, GuySuCo has not yet indicated to the court who its new attorney(s) will be.

For failing to inform the court of its plans to change counsel ahead of the matter being called on Monday morning and for wasting the court’s time, Justice Singh awarded $100,000 in costs to the bank’s representatives, who had turned up for the trial.

That sum has to be borne by GuySuCo.

Those representatives of the financial institution had travelled from Berbice, from whence the matter originated. Since the judge is sitting in the current Demerara criminal assizes, however, the case was called at the High Court in Georgetown.

In imposing the costs, Justice Singh noted that he had taken into consideration that the bank’s representatives and legal team would have travelled from New Amsterdam to Georgetown, in vain.

The judge has ordered GuySuCo to ensure that its new attorney is retained by March 12th at 9.30 am, when the matter will be called again for trial, while noting that the court will proceed with or without counsel on that day.

In its writ, Republic Bank (the plaintiff) is claiming damages to the tune of $260,959,022, which it says is a capital sum of $160,784,135, with interest outstanding as at May 31st, 2014, in the sum of $100, 210,887.

These sums, the bank says, are for breach of contract made with GuySuCo (the defendant) on July 14th, 2008, together with interest on the capital sum at 12% per annum from May 31st, 2014 until fully paid.

In its statement of claim, the bank said that S and R Abdulla Cane Farming Inc, had secured from it the sum of $201,457,000 to cultivate cane to supply to GuySuCo’s Skeldon Factory.

According to court documents, the cultivation was done on S and R Abdulla’s 600 acres of land located in the Jackson Creek area, Upper Corentyne.

The bank detailed the sugar cane cultivation agreement being entered into by the three entities on July 14th, 2008, pursuant to which interest was to be paid at a rate of 12% per annum.

According to the bank, when the agreement was made, GuySuCo expressly agreed that in the event S and R Abdulla Cane Farming Inc. failed to execute its obligations, it would take over the maintenance and operations of the farm until the bank was repaid in full.

This commitment, the bank argues, was made in accordance with clauses 4, 5 and 6 of the agreement. It notes that clause four states that GuySuCo “shall take over the total maintenance and operation of the land for the cultivation of the sugar cane,” in the event S and R failed to continue their obligation.

Meanwhile, clause five states that if at the time of taking over total maintenance and operation of the land, S and R Abdulla has not discharged their obligation to the bank, then all the proceeds from the sale of the sugar cane from the land “shall be paid directly to the bank and this shall continue until the bank has been fully repaid.”

According to clause six, if at the time of taking over total maintenance and operation of the land, S and R Abdulla has not discharged their obligation to the bank, then GuySuCo “shall continue to maintain and operate the land until such time as the bank has been fully repaid.”

Though S and R Abdulla Cane Farming Inc. has failed to honour its obligations, however, the bank notes that GuySuCo continues to violate the terms of the agreement and supporting clauses, even though it had indicated in several correspondences that they would be taking over management of S and R.

The plaintiff highlighted in its statement of claim that it was GuySuCo which had authorised the disbursal of all finances by it to S and R Abdulla Cane Farming Inc, which later developed the land and began cane cultivation on a significant portion, though “the defendant failed to harvest the farm’s canes.”

The financial institution has advanced that hereafter, S and R not only failed to repay it, but also abandoned the farm.

The bank said it has made both oral and written requests to GuySuCo to “fulfil its contractual obligations by assuming control of the farm, producing cane and liquidating the debt of S and R Abdulla Cane Farming Inc,” but to no avail.

The plaintiff said that GuySuCo has failed to take physical control of the farm as well as to assume its management. Additionally, it said that no payments have been made towards the debt incurred by S and R Abdulla.

It is upon this basis that the bank is contending that GuySuCo has breached the contract, and is therefore liable for damages.

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