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We acted prudently in matter—NGC

Published: 
Thursday, July 19, 2018
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A storage tank for Beetham Wastewater Recycling Plant output.

The National Gas Company last evening defended its right to pursue litigation against Super Industrial Services. However, the company said the matter is still before the courts and could now be prejudiced.

In a statement last night, NGC said it was sub judice and former attorney general Ramesh Maharaj should not have commented on the matter as it was due to come up before the High Court in December.

“Those proceedings involve allegations of fraud against SIS and RFRL and seek remedies in respect of same. Arbitration proceedings were commenced by NGC against SIS in October 2016 seeking to recover more than TT$400 million from SIS arising out of the breach of contract by SIS leading to its termination. NGC has at all times taken steps to diligently prosecute those proceedings and continues to do so,” the NGC said.

Saying SIS is due to file its defence to the claim this month, NGC said, “The sub judice rule prevents parties including their attorneys from commenting on matters that are before a court or tribunal for judicial determination. Breach of the rule is punishable by contempt.”

However, NGC said Maharaj’s statements relating to the pending proceedings were designed to and were capable of prejudicing the fair hearing of the proceedings.

Nevertheless, NGC said it needed to correct inaccuracies in Maharaj’s statements.

Noting that terminating SIS’s contract was done on the advice of Senior Counsel, NGC said: “SIS has never offered NGC an undertaking not to dispose of its assets up to the value of TT$180 million pending the hearing and determination of the arbitration proceedings. The Court of Appeal in a decision dated 12 June 2017 found that NGC was right to reject any undertakings offered by NGC.”

It added: “NGC has at all times acted prudently, in its commercial interest and in the public interest in seeking to recover millions of dollars from SIS which were overpaid during the currency of the contract, or which are due to NGC arising out of SIS’s breach of contract.”

It also denied that it has to pay SIS’ legal costs, saying,”Judgments registered against SIS operate as charges on the assets of SIS, thereby encumbering its assets so that they are not available for execution if NGC succeeds in the arbitration.”

The company said in March 2018, SIS allowed one such judgment in the sum of $18,386,289.66 to be entered against it by failing to enter an appearance to the claim.

During the press conference yesterday, Guardian Media asked Maharaj whether his statements were sub judice, but he said no.

“With respect to matters before judge and jury, the jury will decide on a case so therefore sub judice has less effect on a civil matter,” Maharaj said.

“If you are pressurizing a judge to make a decision that is a problem, but in a famous case in London with the Attorney General vs the Sunday Times it was said a judge in a civil case who can be persuaded by what he or she reads in a newspaper, has to have second thoughts about being a judge.”

He also said politicians had also spoken extensively on the SIS issue on a public platform.

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