Van West ask court to Jail Statia and Sharma as Fuel company files contempt proceedings

Atlantic Fuels Inc. (AFI) has filed Contempt of Court proceedings against Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Godfrey Statia and Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) Mahender Sharma over their failure to comply with two Orders of Court made by Chief Justice Roxane George, SC.

Through its Attorney-at-law Siand Dhurjon,  AFI, which is owned by former Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), Richard Van West-Charles is asking that Statia and Sharma be sent to prison and made to pay a fine for disobeying the court orders dated February 3, 2021, and March 15, 2021.

In the judgment dated February 3, Justice George ordered GRA and GEA to immediately release over $80 million in diesel that was seized from the fuel company.

The State agencies had seized and detained 635, 353 litres of diesel from AFI after alleging that the company tendered falsified invoices to GRA. On November 01, 2020, AFI imported the diesel fuel into Guyana.

GEA, however, said that after investigations it was revealed that the fuel was purchased from Staatsolie, a Surinamese company, and not Global Oil as stated by AFI.

AFI then filed a lawsuit against the Heads of GRA and GEA. After examining the evidence, the Chief Justice, in the end, ruled that GRA and GEA had no power under law to hinder or impede the importation of the fuel.

Justice George issued two orders of mandamus- one ordering GEA to mark the fuel and another ordering the GRA to release the fuel since over $20,000,000 in taxes and fees were already paid by AFI.

The Chief Justice in a subsequent order dated March 15, 2021, ordered that Statia and Sharma are liable jointly and severally for the payment of storage fees in the sum of  $12, 825,000 to  AFI.

According to Dhurjon, “The Chief Justice declared that the fuel was the property of AFI and that Statia and Sharma acted illegally and unconstitutionally in their actions to prevent the marking and clearance of the fuel so that AFI could successfully import the fuel.”.

Following the Chief Justice’s decision, on February 16, 2021, Statia and Sharma filed an appeal and by way of summons applied for a stay of execution of the judgment.  Justice of Appeal Rishi Persaud, sitting in-chambers, dismissed the application for the stay of execution on March 4, 2021.

As such, Dhurjon gave Justice Persaud an undertaking that he will not seek to enforce the judgment before March 15, 2021, thereby giving Statia and Sharma and opportunity to make another application for a stay of execution before the Chief Justice.

This publication understands that no such application was made before Justice George by Statia and Sharma. To date, Dhurjon said that the two Government officials have not complied with the orders of the Chief Justice.

The company’s fuel remains unmarked and under seals affixed by GRA at a storage facility incurring at least $113, 500 in storage fees per day. None of the $12, 825, 000 in storage costs have been paid to AFI, neither has the company received any correspondence from Statia and Sharma about their fulfillment of the court orders.

While both orders of court have been served on Sharma, Dhurjon said “attempts to serve the orders of court personally on Mr. Statia were unsuccessful as his employees and/or agents would prevent Marshals from having physical access to Mr. Statia.” According to AFI’s lawyer, both Statia and Sharma have come to know about the orders handed down by the Chief Justice since they have given their lawyers instructions to file appeals against the said orders.

In court documents seen by this publication, Dhurjon states “Statia and Sharma are both in Contempt of Court for their willful and intentional neglect, disregard, breach and failure to obey two Order of Courts and ought to be held in Contempt and committed to prison lest their disrespect to the Honourable Court, to the Constitution of our land and to the very rule of law be condoned.”