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High Court dismisses $126M rent claim against Govt for Sussex St. bond

Sussex Street Bond (Stabroek News Photo)

A lawsuit brought against the Government by Linden Holdings Inc. for $126,000,000 in unpaid rent for a bond located at Lot 29 Sussex Street, Georgetown has been dismissed by the High Court.

Linden Holdings Inc, which owns the bond, rented the controversial bond to the Health Ministry in 2016 for the storage of drugs. On October 31, 2016, the Health Ministry wrote the company terminating the tenancy and give notice that it intends to vacate the bond on November 1, 2017.

The Ministry again wrote to the company on October 3, 2017, reminding it of the earlier notice of termination and reiterating that it would be giving up possession of the premises at the end of November 2017.

Through its Attorney-at-law, the company informed the Ministry that it did not receive the notice of termination and did not recognise the Ministry as being lawfully entitled to give up possession of the premises.

The company, therefore, threatened that if the ministry gives up possession of the bond it would sue for the unexpired term of the tenancy.

The Health Ministry did not give up the bond until August 2018. After the Ministry gave up possession of the premises, in accordance with its earlier letter from its lawyer, the company claimed $126 million as the total rents which would have been payable for the full term of the tenancy up to June 30, 2019, or 10 months at $12.6 million per month.

In his ruling, High Court Judge Nareshwar Harnanan dismissed the claim. In doing so, he found that the notice of termination was properly served by the Health Ministry and that the tenancy had been validly terminated.

Further, the High Court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear the claim as at all material times, the ministry had been a statutory tenant.

Since the Ministry was a statutory tenant, the Judge ruled that the claim ought not to have been brought in the High Court, but rather, in the Magistrates’ Court where by law, such claims must be decided.

The company was represented by Attorneys-at-law Glenn Hanoman and Joshua Abdool, while the Attorney-General and Central Board of Health were represented by Andrew Pollard, SC, and Solicitor General Nigel Hawke.