Attorney General’s Chambers defends terms of court settlement with Hareshnarine Sugrim

-says he forwent over $63m

The Attorney General’s Chambers yesterday said that the settlement of a court matter resulted in businessman Hareshnarine Sugrim forgoing over $63m which the High Court had awarded him in relation to a breach of contract for the purchase of equipment.

Part of the settlement will see the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) purchasing $226.1m worth of equipment from Sugrim’s Guyana Tractor Equipment which transaction had been the subject of the court case that the businessman eventually won against the government.

In a statement yesterday, the AG’s Chambers pointed fingers at former Deputy Solicitor General Prithima Kissoon for the judgement won by Sugrim against the government, alleging that her failure to obey specific instructions were the root causes.

The AG’s Chambers issued the statement in response to a May 4th Kaieteur News article under the headline `Govt agrees to pay GUYTRACT $226M in yet another out of court settlement’.   The state isn’t paying Guytrac $226.1m but purchasing equipment to that value from it. The AG’s Chambers called the contents of the article “ludicrous” and accused Kissoon, who was referred to in the news item,  of distorting the facts and misleading “the public about the true facts and circumstances of the case and slander the office of the Honourable Attorney General”.

In  the statement, the AG’s Chambers said that the matter of Sugrim, trading under the name and style of Guyana Tractor Equipment v. NDIA Action No. 2015-HC-DEM-W-193 was commenced by a Writ of Summons with Indorsement of Claim dated the 1st day of June, 2015.

During the previous administration, it was explained that Sugrim was awarded a contract to supply NDIA with equipment. The said Cabinet under the previous administration, subsequent to the award withdrew its no objection and Sugrim then commenced an action on the 1st June 2015 suing the NDIA and the Attorney General for breach of contract.

“This matter was conducted solely by Ms. Prithima Kissoon, former Deputy Solicitor General in the High Court. Ms. Prithima Kissoon prepared and filed pleadings submissions on behalf of the State in which she assisted the case for the defence without regard to specific instructions from the Honourable Attorney General. By the time the Honourable Attorney General attempted to intervene in the matter Ms. Kissoon had already filed pleadings, conducted the trial, argued and filed submissions”, the AG’s Chambers charged.

It was stated that as a result of her refusal to obey specific instructions the State “lost” the case. It was explained that Justice Diana Insanally awarded damages to Sugrim for breach of contract in the sum of $226, 161,235, damages for loss of profit in the sum of $44,602,000 as a result of the breach of the contract on the part of the defendant, resulting damages in the sum of $19M and interest on any award at the rate of 6% per annum from the date of filing to the date of judgment and at the rate of 4% per annum until fully paid.

“Given the Order of the Court and the manner in which the case was conducted by Ms. Kissoon, it was in the best interest of NDIA and the Government of Guyana to amicably resolve this matter”, the AG’s Chambers said in the statement.

It was explained that on the instructions of NDIA it was agreed between the parties that NDIA would purchase from Sugrim six long boom excavators and other equipment which they needed for the sum of $226, 161,235 in full and final settlement of the matter.

The statement said that it should be noted that the Government in the “public’s interest” negotiated that the settlement would not include (a) damages for loss of profit in the sum of $44,602,000, damages in the sum of $19,000,000 and interest on any award at the rate of 6% per annum from the date of filing to the date of judgment and at the rate of 4% per annum until fully paid as per the Judge’s order. “Mr.  Sugrim agreed to (forgo) in excess of sixty-three million dollars”, the statement read.

“Therefore Kissoon’s accusations and insinuations (in the KN news item of May 4th) against the Honourable Attorney General and the office he holds are unfounded, mischievous and without any merit. It is interesting to note that the learned judge clearly did not share the view held by Kissoon that the government had a `strong’ case and as such ruled against the state and found in favour of the Plaintiff”, the statement said, while adding that the settlement reached has saved the Government of Guyana millions of dollars and provided the much needed equipment to the NDIA.

Kissoon in comments to Kaieteur News had said that Williams backpedalled on his promises to represent the state and that the judgment was handed down after he failed to appear, despite the court granting several adjournments.

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