Defence Force saddled with $2 million hotel bill

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

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