Gov’t US$10.7M Debt for Vehicle Ruling on Ice

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A ruling of the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice which should have established whether or not it has the legal rights to proceed  with hearings into a  US$10.7M lawsuit filed against the Government of Liberia (GOL) by a Lebanese businessman, George Haddad, is yet to be handed down by the court.

Haddad, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Prestige Motor Corporation and Alliance Motor Corporation, is pursing the debt action against the government.

.Surprisingly, government lawyers are seeking to have the court remove itself from the case. They also want to have a portion of the debt action against GOL excluded from the trial and are seeking to have the whole case thrown out.

In early February, the Resident Chief Judge of the three-judge panel that is presiding over the court postponed ruling on the various issues.  Judge Eva Mappy Morgan also said the panel of judges was considering conducting an in-chambers review of records from both parties.

She publicly made the assertion immediately after they listened to arguments from both parties in response to the government’s request.

Interestingly, up to present, Judge Morgan and panel have not informed the lawyers when they will bring down their decision.

The reason for the delay is unknown, but the Daily Observer has learned that authorities at the Ministry of Finance were considering negotiating with Haddad to reduce the money.

The legal expert did not say if Mr. Haddad has agreed to have the matter settled out of court.

 Hailing the court’s initial decision to hear arguments in the matter, the legal expert said, "We are pleased that the judges are thoroughly examining these serious legal issues and believe that the court has chosen the absolutely correct path to address where the case is now, but we have not been told when that would happen,” the source told this paper.

Apparently, the source said, government was doing that to discourage other entities from taking GOL to the Commercial Court regarding contracts and debts incurred by past governments.

“The challenging part is that if the court denies the request, other organizations would (be encouraged) to go to the Commercial Court for redress on contracts or services they performed for past administrations, especially during the interim periods, and have not been paid,” the legal source added.

The case alleges that government, from 2000 to 2008, hired the services of Mr. Haddad, who sold and repaired vehicles and also supplied spare parts amounting to US$10.7M to several state owned institutions (SOI). However those SOIs are yet to pay their debts, despite Mr. Haddad’s persistent claims.

Among the vehicles for which GOL owes Haddad are Cherokee and Land Rover Leon.

Though GOL has admitted owing Mr. Haddad, its lawyers insist that the Commercial Court is not the proper court under the law to hear and decide the case.

Justifying their argument, Cllr Augustine Fayia said, “The Commercial Court was established in 2010, which means the law that created it prevents the court from hearing cases prior to its establishment.”

He further argued that if the court continues with the matter, it would be a complete violation of the Constitution and the Act that created it.

He pleaded that the court advise Haddad’s lawyers to file their complaint to the appropriate court, but did not mention which court was the appropriate one to take the case.

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