A HIGH Court judge has approved a lower costs budget for seven former directors of the Sport Company of TT (SportTT)and its former CEO in a $34 million claim against them.
In January last year, the SporTT filed a breach-of-contract claim against its former directors Sebastian Paddington, Chela Lamsee-Ebanks, Reynold Bala, Norris Blanc, Nisa Dass, Anyl Gopeesingh, Sabenah Khayyam, Cheemattee Martin, Michael Quamina, Annan Ramnansingh, Kent Samlal, Harnarine Seeram Singh, Milton Siboo and former CEO John Mollenthiel, alleging breach of their fiduciary duties.
The claim seeks to get back the $34 million the SporTT paid EBeam Interact under the People’s Partnership administration’s Life Sport Programme.
SporTT said Ebeam had been “unjustly enriched.” The former CEO and seven others filed applications for budgeted costs, submitting that it would be fair and reasonable for the court to set a higher costs budget.
The filing of budgeted costs forms part of the Civil Proceedings Rules, under which all parties must file and exchange costs budgets providing an estimate of the costs likely to be incurred at each stage in the litigation process. In their applications, they argued it was reasonable to set costs budget higher than those prescribed because of the nature and circumstances of the case. The total proposed budget for costs in the eight application was $8.3 million. In his decision, Justice Ricky Rahim approved budgeted costs of $4.3 million for the eight. He said the court had to consider several factors, including the issues and evidence to be presented by the defendants, the voluminous nature of the proceedings, that each of them was entitled to their own lawyers and that the case is likely to be protracted because of the likely issues to be raised.
“It is also noted that in the event the claimant is successful against the defendants, each of them may be liable for the full sum of 34 million. The trial is likely to take up a substantive part of the court’s schedule and will no doubt involve the participation of attorneys in a trial that is likely to last about two weeks. Attorneys’ fees are therefore to be way beyond that which will be recoverable under the prescribed costs regime.”
He said the court had to strike a balance in its decision to ensure that parties were placed on an equal footing. He said the very serious allegation involved can be considered to be the amount of public funds. “In all of the circumstances therefore the court finds that it is fair and reasonable to set a costs budget in respect of all of the applicants as prescribed costs in the sum set out above will be inadequate and unreasonable.”