Gov’t Challenges Court in US$10.7M Vehicles Debt

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The court is yet to come out with a definite decision more than two months after government lawyers challenged the legality of the Commercial Court to hear a US$10.7M vehicle debt lawsuit brought against them by Lebanese businessman, George Haddad.

If the court rules that it has jurisdiction, it means that it would proceed into the merit of the case, which may likely compel government to pay US$10.7m debt owed Mr. Haddad, a judicial expert hinted to the Daily Observer.

Mr. Haddad‘s lawyer filed a lawsuit against the government claiming that  from 2000 to 2008, their client  sold and repaired several vehicles and also supplied spare parts to government institutions amounting to US$10.7M. However, government is yet to pay the money, despite their client’s persistent attempts to collect payment.

Prior to challenging the court’s authority to handle the matter, government lawyers openly admitted that they were indebted to the Lebanese businessman.

They made the confession when the court held a conference with both parties.

 Surprisingly, after hearing government’s admission and subsequent contention over the court’s jurisdiction, the Resident Chief Judge, Eva Mappy Morgan, one of the judges of the three-judge panel that is managing the court, suspended the case without setting a definite date for their ruling into the matter.

The judicial expert informed this newspaper that the plaintiff and his lawyers do not know the reason behind the court’s delay in deciding the matter.

According to the expert, the act that created the court provides that “It shall have jurisdiction over and in all civil actions arising out of or in relation to commercial transactions in which the claim is at least US$15,000…”

The act further provides that “the court has jurisdiction over all commercial cases and claims, irrespective of the residence of parties or what . . . cause of action arose.”

It further states that “it has jurisdiction over all disputes in connection with the creation, negotiation, and enforcement of any negotiable instrument, including the liabilities and rights associated with it.”

“It has the power to adjudicate all commercial matters within its jurisdiction and . . . claims over which the circuit court, the debt court and the commercial court have concurrent jurisdiction may not need to be moved from the court at which it has been instituted.

Despite these jurisdictions, a state lawyer, Cllr. Augustine Fayia, argued that the case be dismissed on the grounds that the court lacks what he termed as “jurisdiction” to try the case.

He also contended that the court was established in 2010, which shows that the law creating it prevented it from hearing matters prior to its establishment.

Cllr. Fayia’s contention came after the state lawyers and Haddad’s lawyers rested with the final arguments in early February.

However, the state lawyer did not deny government indebtedness to the foreign businessman; rather Cllr. Fayia argued that the court lacks jurisdiction.

The case arose in 2012, when Haddad’s legal team, the Sherman & Sherman Law Firm filed a lawsuit against government.

In that lawsuit, the lawyers contended that from 2000 to 2008, Mr. Haddad sold and repaired several vehicles and also supplied spare parts to government institutions amounting to US$10.7M. However, government is yet to pay the money, despite their client’s persistent negotiations.

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