CCJ to hear oral arguments in lawsuit against T&T next year
Port of Spain – The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) set January 18 for oral arguments in a case in which the Trinidad & Tobago government faces a lawsuit from a group of British American and CLICO (BACOL) policyholders from the Eastern Caribbean over its bail-out of the cash-strapped CL Financial Group 12 years ago.
The CCJ heard the matter on Wednesday concerning a request for the Court’s permission to take legal action against T&T for alleged discrimination against non-nationals in protecting the funds of some policyholders of CL Financial.
The CCJ will hear the matter under its original jurisdiction, allowing the court to function as an international tribunal, applying rules of international law in respect of the interpretation and application of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which governs the regional integration movement, CARICOM.
CCJ president, Justice Adrian Saunders said T&T will submit on or about November 5 its submissions “as to why special leave ought not to be granted”.
“If those submissions involve issues of fact, which you think render the special leave application not being one that is arguable and ought to be dismissed then you mention those in your submission and the other side will respond,” he told Senior Counsel Deborah Peake, who is representing the state of T&T. “You will have a right to reply, and on January 18, we will have an oral hearing on the matter.
“The state of T&T will file a written submission on or about November 5, the appellants will file their response to those written submissions on December 3. T&T will have until December 17 to file its reply and there will be an oral hearing on January 18.”
Justice Saunders said he hoped the oral arguments would be concluded in a day.
In their application, the appellants argue that the T&T government’s rescue plan to protect the funds of policyholders of the locally based conglomerate discriminated against policyholders on the basis of nationality.
They are also contending that the government contravened certain articles of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, where CARICOM countries agree to not allow for discrimination on the grounds of nationality, among others.
But the government is resisting the application for leave with Peake asking for additional time to file factual evidence, respond and then put in submissions on the objection.
She said the government did not see the April 2019 pre-action protocol letter sent by the Eastern Caribbean policyholders and needed “a fair opportunity to respond”, since “we are dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars”.
The regional shareholders are represented by a team of British and Caribbean-based attorneys that include Simon Davenport, QC, and former St Lucia prime minister, Dr Kenny Anthony.
Davenport told the court that there had been several communications over two years and that Port of Spain “had two-and-a-half years to consider its position”.
The appellants are also arguing that the collapse of the Trinidad-based conglomerate had a catastrophic and widespread effect on the Eastern Caribbean.