25th Feb 2020
In a scathing eight-page letter written to Dr. Jan Mangal, by Foreign Secretary Carl Greenidge, through leading commercial lawyer Devindra Kissoon of London House Chambers, Greenidge has accused Dr. Mangal of defamation and has threatened to sue him for one million US dollars unless he immediately cease and desist from making further publications and issues a corresponding apology.
Greenidge alleges in his letter that Dr. Mangal defamed him in a series of interviews given to Kaieteur News, letters written to and published by Stabroek News and well as on social media. The letter alleges that Dr. Mangal in those publications falsely “accused Mr. Greenidge, a selfless civil servant, in the strongest terms as being corrupt, clandestine, “being supported by [his] friends in the private sector who get the construction contracts” and shockingly, “collud[ing] with companies to defraud the country.”
Mangal, has been an open critic of the Government, accusing the Government and Greenidge of keeping the Exxon contract secret. Greenidge states “the Articles are based on the false premise that Mr. Greenidge was part of a core trio of senior Government representatives who were collectively responsible for the Government’s decision not to release the Exxon contract, an allegation which is not only untrue, but fundamentally offensive and defamatory.” Greenidge alleges “While being outspoken about non-disclosure of Exxon’s signing bonus so as to give Guyana a legal advantage at the ICJ, and an economic advantage generally, at no time has Mr. Greenidge been responsible for the Government’s decision not to release the Exxon contract, an entirely separate matter. The letter goes on to state “At no time was our client responsible for re-negotiation or revision of the Exxon contract. These statements impugn the reputation, goodwill and basic integrity of our client, and constitute actionable libel per se. This statement is blatantly false and maliciously designed to injure our client’s good name.”
In referring to a letter allegedly written by Dr. Mangal to Stabroek News on January 27, 2020, where Mangal alleges that Guyana lost US$5 billion dollars as a result of the Exxon deal, the letter states “At no time was our client responsible for re-negotiation or revision of the Exxon contract. These statements impugn the reputation, goodwill and basic integrity of our client, and constitute actionable libel per se. This statement is blatantly false and maliciously designed to injure our client’s good name. Moreover, the juxtaposition of a sum of money that Exxon will benefit from and our client’s name in a list of three persons identified as being responsible for Exxon receiving that money, implies that our client is directly responsible for Guyana losing money. This is untrue and in the above mentioned context of the oil industry and the suspicion with which it is viewed in Guyana’s society, the average reader would assume that our client is at the very least inept, and/ or the most corrupt, colluding with or being overpowered by Exxon to the detriment of the Guyanese taxpayers, a position which is simply false.”
In referring to another alleged letter written by Mangal to Stabroek News on January 20, 2020, whereby Mangal allegedly refers to the recently published Global Witness report and comments made by Greenidge in that regard, Mangal apparently asserts that Greenidge was an advocate for keeping the Exxon contract secret and not renegotiating the contract. In response thereto, the cease and desist letter states “These statements impugn the reputation, goodwill and basic integrity of our client, and constitute actionable libel per se. In this article, you have juxtaposed Global Witness’ history of uncovering corruption alongside your false claims of our client being an advocate for the foreign oil companies by advocating for secrecy of the contract information and by being against negotiation. This juxtaposition is in the context of Guyana’s society and the suspicion surrounding the oil industry. These allegations that you have published mean, and were understood to mean by the average reader of the article that our client has been engaging in clandestine and corrupt activities with foreign oil companies and is therefore against transparency, is corrupt, or is at the very least unprofessional and inept. These allegations and charges amount to a very serious libel of my client and have caused him considerable distress and embarrassment. Additionally, these assertions are defamatory and blatantly designed to lead readers to believe our client is guilty of impropriety.”
And in response to Mangal’s alleged letter written to Stabroek News on February 2, 2020, the cease and desist letter states “These statements impugn the reputation, goodwill and basic integrity of our client, and constitute actionable libel per se. Despite not referring to our client by name, in the context of your previous publications outlined in this letter where you accuse our client of colluding with foreign oil companies, the fact that our client is the only Cabinet member who also served in the Forbes Burnham Cabinet and the fact that our client is a member of government with family members who operate in the private sector and have been awarded state contracts, the average reader would understand that the allegations in your letter refer to our client. You make allegations of theft and provide an example of how an oil company could easily “buy off” Guyanese elites. The average reader would conclude that our client is one of these elites who have been stealing from the State and who have been bought off by the oil companies, especially when read together with your later comment where you state “These politicians are being supported by their friends in the private sector who get the construction contracts.” These malicious, intentional and reckless statements are defamatory, causing our client harm, and subjecting him to considerable ridicule.”
The cease and desist letter goes to refer to various Facebook posts allegedly made by Mangal, calling them “crude and false.. designed to maliciously injure” Greenidge, which have “caused injury to our client and his good name”, Greenidge denying he has received “special or illegal favours” from Exxon Mobil or other participants in Guyana’s oil and gas sector.
The cease and desist letter also alludes that the contents of one of Mangal’s Facebook posts may offend the Cyber Crime Act 2018 and can constitute a “threat to intimidate and harm our client”, Kissoon stating “we have also been instructed to pursue all civil and criminal remedies” provided by the Act.
The letter ends with a demand for Mangal to cease and desist from further publication and a threat to pursue all available remedies “including, but not limited to, monetary damages for actual damages caused by your defamatory statements in the amount of at least US$1,000,000.00 (G$215,000,000.00), plus costs and attorneys’ fees which could well exceed US$100,000 (G$215,000), unless you immediately retract your statements and issue an apology as mutually agreed, which is to be published with the same prominence and frequency as the Articles.”
The full text of the letter is to be found here.