Contractor Emile Elias, who recently resigned as chairman of State-owned TSTT, is going after Finance Minister Colm Imbert via the courts, seeking a $55 million payment ordered in a judgment against a company owned by Imbert, for work done on the Grenada National Stadium project back in 1997.
Elias, executive chairman of NH International (NHIC) filed an application in the High Court to enforce a 2011 judgment by Justice Peter Rajkumar who ruled in favour of the NHIC at the end of an 18 year legal battle against Imbert’s NSGC. Hearing of the application for enforcement will take place on November 3, in the Port of Spain High Court.
The way was cleared for Elias to seek payment of the judgment sum, which is held in escrow by the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC), when the Court of Appeal in July, dismissed an application by NSGC for a stay of execution. In its ruling, Justices of Appeal Nolan Bereaux, Judith Jones and Andre des Vignes held that there was no risk of injustice to NSGC, in satisfying the judgment debt.
National Stadium has also appealed Justice Rajkumar’s ruling and hearing for this has been fixed for sometime in May. In its ruling, delivered by Justice Jones, the Court of Appeal held that a successful litigant (in this case Emile Elias) was entitled to the fruits of such success, unless NSGC can show there was a risk of injustice.
The lawsuit between Elias and Imbert has been waged in local, regional and international courts, after Elias accused Imbert of reneging on a contractual agreement and refusing to pay millions owed. The lawsuit sought payment of a debt of $17 million which is now estimated to be worth $55 million when interest is added.
Elias’ lawsuit was against Imbert’s construction firm ICS (Grenada) Limited, Clico Investment Bank (CIB) and (NS), the latter being a company Imbert was said to have formed to hold the lease on the stadium. In the appellate court’s ruling, Justice Jones noted while it was evident that it was the first time NHIC sought to enforce the judgment, it also contested NS’ attempts to obtain a stay.
This was the second stay sought. The first was dismissed by Justice of Appeal Paula Mae Weekes and went to the Privy Council which sent it back to be determined by the local appellate court. Justice Jones held that it was perfectly reasonable for NHIC to seek enforce of the judgment before the expiration of the six year period and permission was not needed from the courts.
According to NHIC’s auditor, as of March 31, Elias’ company has in its bank account $160,852,590, “with a very strong foreign currency banking.” The financial evidence also showed fixed assets belonging to NHIC to the value of $19.8 million. “The evidence of Elias is that the respondent is not currently indebted to any of its bankers and continues to have ongoing construction projects,” Justice Jones said, adding that the court did not have to determine which of the opinions of either NS’ accountant or NHIC’s were correct.
She also noted that there was no evidence of Elias’ NHIC having a propensity to remove its assets from the jurisdiction nor of having a bad credit rating or being unable to meet its debts. “On the evidence before us it is clear that the respondent has more than enough cash in the
bank within this jurisdiction to repay the sum if called upon to do so. Further there is evidence of ongoing projects of which unpaid sums due amount to some TT$ 68,770469.22. In the circumstances on the evidence before us we can, and do, come to the conclusion that the respondent will be in a position to repay the sum if necessary,” Justice Jones said.
According to the original ruling by Justice Rajkumar, in March 1997, Imbert gave instructions for the formation of ICS Grenada, which was incorporated on April 11, 1997. In March of 1997, Imbert also gave instructions for the incorporation of NS - the special purpose development company formed and owned by ICS. As a government minister, Imbert would have transferred all his interests in the company.