The State has been ordered to pay over $2 million in compensation to a hotel owner for a set of rooms occupied by the T&T Defence Force (TTDF) between 2002 and 2014.
In June, Chaguaramas Management Company Limited, the owners of Chaquacabana Resort (formerly Cove Hotel and Beach Resort), sued the State over the fees which were unpaid since the TTDF vacated the property in May 2014.
In its defence, the State had contended that it could not pay the money as the monthly rental fee for the rooms was increased, without Cabinet approval, from $1,350 to $5,430 and then to $9,505, between 2002 and 2007.
Delivering an oral judgment in the Port-of-Spain High Court on Monday, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled in favour of the company as he stated that the State's position was untenable.
Seepersad noted that the price increases were based on the advice of the Commissioner of Valuations and that the Ministry of National Security had admitted it was making arrangements to make the payment in November 2015.
Seepersad said: "It was evident that there was an agreement to pay the increased lease rent and the court has great difficulty with the position adopted by the AG."
He said that it was reprehensible for the State to occupy the property while Cabinet approval was outstanding for over seven years.
"There exists upon the State, a heightened burden to operate within the ambit of the law and to operate honourably and honestly. The State cannot operate as a smart man and hide behind the assertion that the offer for increased rent was subject to Cabinet approval," he said.
According to the lawsuit, in 2000, the company inherited the lease with the TTDF when it acquired the property, located along the Western Main Road in Chaguaramas near the entrance to the TTDF's Teteron Barracks.
The company claimed that when the TTDF eventually vacated, it owed $2,492,331.69 in fees and interest. Since then, the company claimed that it made $1,276,175 from renting the space to other clients.
The company was represented by Richard Thomas and Angelique Olowe, while Mary Davis and Nariob Smart represented the State.
- by Derek Achong