State must pay Siparia landowner $5.4m

Devindra Rampersad -
Devindra Rampersad -

The State has been ordered to pay more than $5.4 million in compensation to a Siparia landowner for land for the construction of an access link to the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin.

In a decision on Wednesday, Justice Devindra Rampersad upheld Fawwaaz Hosein’s breach-of-contract claim against the State. He said Hosein had proven, on a balance of probabilities, that there was a contract for the acquisition of his land for the highway project.

In addition to the $5.4 million, the judge also ordered that he should receive interest of five per cent on $3.7 million from September 1, 2017, until payment.

The State was also ordered to pay Hosein’s costs of $249,577.39. An additional cost order will be made next month.

According to the evidence, NIDCO entered into an agreement with Hosein to acquire a portion of land off Saltmine Trace, Siparia, for the construction of the Siparia link to the highway but failed to pay, claiming it did not take possession of the land within six months, so the acquisition agreement lapsed.

The State also argued that if anyone was entitled to compensation, it would be Hosein’s grandmother, Zobeeda.

Hosein, however, had his grandmother’s power of attorney, and the land was given to him.

In his ruling, the judge was highly critical of the State for failing to provide a file on the acquisition of the land, which was valued at $5,412,912.20 by the Commissioner of Valuations of the Ministry of Finance, and the letter of offer which Hosein accepted.

“The court therefore has to wonder why this vital file was not produced by the defendant. Further, the court wonders why a witness was not produced for the defendant who could have spoken about the origin of this letter and the contents of the file which crystallised into this letter of offer.”

He also asked why, if an offer was sent to Hosein in 2017, the State contended the acquisition lapsed in 2012 and it did not take possession of the land.

Rampersad also said what made the matter worse for the defendant was the failure to produce a letter from the Commissioner of Valuations to the president of NIDCO in 2017, saying payment should be made.

That letter formed part of the disclosure in an unrelated court matter, also against the State.

“Of course, this letter was crucial as it authorised and notified NIDCO of the advice to pay the said sum…

“This failure to produce this vital evidence – the file and a representative from the Commissioner of Valuations – gave the court the distinct impression that something was being hidden from the court and there was more to the situation than the defendant was prepared to reveal.”

Rampersad did not ascribe any impropriety to the lawyers who represented the State.

Nevertheless, he said, it was the court’s view that “everything that was directly relevant was not given to the court and this left a negative impression.”

He also said the failure to produce any witness from the Commissioner of State Lands or the Commissioner of Valuations was “a stark omission – whether by design or otherwise,” as he also ruled that the State failed to establish any abandonment of the possession of the land.

“ Having taken possession, all that was left to be done was for the claimant to be paid.”

Hosein was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Robert Abdool-Mitchell and Vishaal Siewsaran. The Attorney General was represented by Douglas Mendes, SC, Ravindra Nanga and Amrita Ramsook.


"State must pay Siparia landowner $5.4m"

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