Start of trial of miner’s missing stones delayed until October

Owing to the late filing of his client’s witness statement, attorney Nigel Hughes has caused a delay in commencement of the trial in which miner Ronald Khan is alleging that $54 million worth of uncut diamonds, which are now missing, were wrongfully detained by the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

When the matter was called yesterday morning, the court was hindered from proceeding with the trial as had previously been planned after Solicitor General (SG) Kim Kyte-Thomas announced that she had only moments before received a call from her chambers informing that Hughes had filed and served the document on her chambers late Tuesday afternoon. 

At a May 22nd hearing, Justice Fidela Corbin-Lincoln, before whom the matter is being heard, had ordered that all witness statements be filed no later than June 22nd. The state had complied with this directive.

In his address to the court, however, Hughes cited his client’s ill-health as the cause for not being able to file the statement within the stipulated timeline.

Noting the importance of keeping timelines and making full use of judicial time, Justice Corbin-Lincoln said it was unfortunate that the matter would have to be adjourned after yesterday was specifically set for start of the trial.

While the Solicitor General noted that the plaintiff can very well proceed with giving his evidence-in-chief as Hughes had indicated he was ready to do, she said that the trial proceedings would still be hindered as she would be ill-equipped to conduct cross-examination since she was not in possession of Khan’s witness statement nor had she had the opportunity of reading it.

She explained that when the document would have been delivered on Tuesday to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, she was unaware as she had left during the afternoon to attend a meeting.

Kyte-Thomas went on to explain that since Wednesday was a holiday, it wasn’t until she was on her way to court yesterday morning that she was made aware of the plaintiff’s witness statement being filed and served on her Chambers late Tuesday afternoon.

In the circumstances, the court has set October 24th as the new trial date. Justice Corbin-Lincoln said that she would have ordinarily imposed costs but decided against it, noting that “both sides were on wrong footing.”

The state had also failed to comply with a May deadline for producing certain documents requested by the plaintiff for trial yesterday. The SG has since undertaken to comply with the new September 14th deadline for the production notice in which she said she will file the documents requested by the plaintiff in the form of affidavits exhibiting same.

Additionally, Hughes was given no later than that date, also, to file submissions on a preliminary issue of “limitation period” raised by the state in which it argues the plaintiff can bring his challenge.

Those submissions should have been filed by Hughes no later than July 20th.

Justice Corbin-Lincoln expressed hope that going forward, both sides will comply with the new timelines so that the trial will get off to a start when the matter is called again on October 24th.

Forthwith

In a writ filed on January 3rd, 2011, requesting the return of his diamonds from the police, Khan argued that the items were being wrongfully detained by the Police Force and sought an order directing the Attorney-General and/or the Commissioner of Police to return his diamonds forthwith or, alternatively, an order directing the Commissioner of Police to compensate him for the full value of his diamonds, which he pegs at $54,000,000.

Acknowledging that it has been unable to locate what it described as “stones” purported to be diamonds, which were recovered by police from a robbery of Khan’s mining camp back in 1994, the state is contending that Khan must prove not only that the stones were in fact diamonds, but that they also carried a value of $54 million as he is claiming.

Khan’s position had been that once his diamonds were returned to him, he would not proceed with a trial. After initially undertaking to locate the precious minerals and reporting that it had come up empty handed, however, the state said that the matter will have to proceed to trial as had been indicated by the plaintiff.

Kyte-Thomas had previously told the court that though earnest endeavours had been made in an attempt to locate the alleged diamonds, the search had been extremely difficult, yielding no success. She noted that some persons who were involved in the case have since died.

The SG had also raised the point of Khan being statutorily barred from making the application in which he seeks to cover his alleged diamonds, since it falls outside of the three-year limitation period as provided by law.

Given that the robbery of Khan’s Potaro mining camp occurred in 1994, Kyte-Thomas had advanced that he could have commenced civil proceedings to recoup his property anytime within the three years therefrom.

The SG noted, however, that Khan waited much later—until 2011—to commence such proceedings.

She vehemently argued that he did not have to await the completion of the criminal trial to request that his diamonds be returned to him.

The SG said that while the alleged diamonds would have been retained by the police for exhibits in the robbery trial, the onus was on Khan to pursue his civil claim to get back his diamonds within that three-year limitation period.

She noted further that it has always been the regular legal practice of the courts to make orders that exhibits be photographed and returned to owners where the circumstance so necessitate.

In addition to full compensation for the value of his diamonds, Khan is also seeking damages in the sum of $100,000, together with interest and court costs, for what he maintains is the wrongful detention of his property by the police.

He also wants any further or other order which the court may see fit and deem just to grant.

The plaintiff is asking, too, for whatever sum as may be allowed on taxation for costs.

Khan noted in his statement of claim that he at all times was the owner of the diamonds which were stolen from his Ewang Creek, Potaro-Siparuni mining camp in 1994, and subsequently recovered by police and taken to the Mahdia Police Station, where it had been lodged.

There, he said, he inspected the diamonds and verified the quantity and amount with police officers. After this was done, the plaintiff said that the officers then transported the items from Mahdia to the ‘E and F’ Division of the GPF.

He said he was informed that the diamonds were required as exhibits in the criminal trial of the persons charged with the armed robbery of his camp.

Despite the passage of several years, however, Khan said that the GPF was unable to conclude the prosecution of the alleged defendants as some of them had escaped while others died.

Sixteen years after the robbery—by letter of 24th November, 2010, the plaintiff said he, through his attorney, wrote the Commissioner of Police requesting the return of his diamonds. He said that while receipt of his letter was acknowledged, the Commissioner of Police failed to return his property.

According to Khan, despite making several demands, the Attorney General had “failed and or refused,” to return his diamonds.

 

Owing to the late filing of his client’s witness statement, attorney Nigel Hughes has caused a delay in commencement of the trial in which miner Ronald Khan is alleging that $54 million worth of uncut diamonds, which are now missing, were wrongfully detained by the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

When the matter was called yesterday morning, the court was hindered from proceeding with the trial as had previously been planned after Solicitor General (SG) Kim Kyte-Thomas announced that she had only moments before received a call from her chambers informing that Hughes had filed and served the document on her chambers late Tuesday afternoon. 

At a May 22nd hearing, Justice Fidela Corbin-Lincoln, before whom the matter is being heard, had ordered that all witness statements be filed no later than June 22nd. The state had complied with this directive.

In his address to the court, however, Hughes cited his client’s ill-health as the cause for not being able to file the statement within the stipulated timeline.

Noting the importance of keeping timelines and making full use of judicial time, Justice Corbin-Lincoln said it was unfortunate that the matter would have to be adjourned after yesterday was specifically set for start of the trial.

While the Solicitor General noted that the plaintiff can very well proceed with giving his evidence-in-chief as Hughes had indicated he was ready to do, she said that the trial proceedings would still be hindered as she would be ill-equipped to conduct cross-examination since she was not in possession of Khan’s witness statement nor had she had the opportunity of reading it.

She explained that when the document would have been delivered on Tuesday to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, she was unaware as she had left during the afternoon to attend a meeting.

Kyte-Thomas went on to explain that since Wednesday was a holiday, it wasn’t until she was on her way to court yesterday morning that she was made aware of the plaintiff’s witness statement being filed and served on her Chambers late Tuesday afternoon.

In the circumstances, the court has set October 24th as the new trial date. Justice Corbin-Lincoln said that she would have ordinarily imposed costs but decided against it, noting that “both sides were on wrong footing.”

The state had also failed to comply with a May deadline for producing certain documents requested by the plaintiff for trial yesterday. The SG has since undertaken to comply with the new September 14th deadline for the production notice in which she said she will file the documents requested by the plaintiff in the form of affidavits exhibiting same.

Additionally, Hughes was given no later than that date, also, to file submissions on a preliminary issue of “limitation period” raised by the state in which it argues the plaintiff can bring his challenge.

Those submissions should have been filed by Hughes no later than July 20th.

Justice Corbin-Lincoln expressed hope that going forward, both sides will comply with the new timelines so that the trial will get off to a start when the matter is called again on October 24th.

 

Forthwith

In a writ filed on January 3rd, 2011, requesting the return of his diamonds from the police, Khan argued that the items were being wrongfully detained by the Police Force and sought an order directing the Attorney-General and/or the Commissioner of Police to return his diamonds forthwith or, alternatively, an order directing the Commissioner of Police to compensate him for the full value of his diamonds, which he pegs at $54,000,000.

Acknowledging that it has been unable to locate what it described as “stones” purported to be diamonds, which were recovered by police from a robbery of Khan’s mining camp back in 1994, the state is contending that Khan must prove not only that the stones were in fact diamonds, but that they also carried a value of $54 million as he is claiming.

Khan’s position had been that once his diamonds were returned to him, he would not proceed with a trial. After initially undertaking to locate the precious minerals and reporting that it had come up empty handed, however, the state said that the matter will have to proceed to trial as had been indicated by the plaintiff.

Kyte-Thomas had previously told the court that though earnest endeavours had been made in an attempt to locate the alleged diamonds, the search had been extremely difficult, yielding no success. She noted that some persons who were involved in the case have since died.

The SG had also raised the point of Khan being statutorily barred from making the application in which he seeks to cover his alleged diamonds, since it falls outside of the three-year limitation period as provided by law.

Given that the robbery of Khan’s Potaro mining camp occurred in 1994, Kyte-Thomas had advanced that he could have commenced civil proceedings to recoup his property anytime within the three years therefrom.

The SG noted, however, that Khan waited much later—until 2011—to commence such proceedings.

She vehemently argued that he did not have to await the completion of the criminal trial to request that his diamonds be returned to him.

The SG said that while the alleged diamonds would have been retained by the police for exhibits in the robbery trial, the onus was on Khan to pursue his civil claim to get back his diamonds within that three-year limitation period.

She noted further that it has always been the regular legal practice of the courts to make orders that exhibits be photographed and returned to owners where the circumstance so necessitate.

In addition to full compensation for the value of his diamonds, Khan is also seeking damages in the sum of $100,000, together with interest and court costs, for what he maintains is the wrongful detention of his property by the police.

He also wants any further or other order which the court may see fit and deem just to grant.

The plaintiff is asking, too, for whatever sum as may be allowed on taxation for costs.

Khan noted in his statement of claim that he at all times was the owner of the diamonds which were stolen from his Ewang Creek, Potaro-Siparuni mining camp in 1994, and subsequently recovered by police and taken to the Mahdia Police Station, where it had been lodged.

There, he said, he inspected the diamonds and verified the quantity and amount with police officers. After this was done, the plaintiff said that the officers then transported the items from Mahdia to the ‘E and F’ Division of the GPF.

He said he was informed that the diamonds were required as exhibits in the criminal trial of the persons charged with the armed robbery of his camp.

Despite the passage of several years, however, Khan said that the GPF was unable to conclude the prosecution of the alleged defendants as some of them had escaped while others died.

Sixteen years after the robbery—by letter of 24th November, 2010, the plaintiff said he, through his attorney, wrote the Commissioner of Police requesting the return of his diamonds. He said that while receipt of his letter was acknowledged, the Commissioner of Police failed to return his property.

According to Khan, despite making several demands, the Attorney General had “failed and or refused,” to return his diamonds.

 

 

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