28th Mar 2015
Source: Kaieteur News
After years of dispute over who really owns a prime commercial property located at 117 “B” Regent and Alexander Streets, Georgetown, two of Guyana’s top corporate entities, Guyana Realty Investments Limited (GRIL), which is linked to Gafoors Group of Companies, and National Hardware, found themselves before Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire at the High Court, yesterday.
Claude and Donna Deygoo, aka Eddie and Donna Boyer, the proprietors of National Hardware, claim that they have a transported title to, and have been the legal owners of the property since September 2008. However, GRIL is claiming prescriptive title, having purchased the property from a third party (Stanley Collymore) in 1993 to use the premises to operate a paint shop.
Attorneys-at-Law Rajendra Poonai and Devindra Kissoon appeared on behalf of National Hardware, while Rex McKay S.C, Edward Luckhoo S.C, and Neil Boston represented GRIL.
Today’s proceedings saw Chairman of GRIL, Sattaur Gafoor, and an employee of a sister company, Indar Chand, taking the stand and facing intense cross examination by the Deygoos attorneys. Mr. Kissoon extensively questioned GRIL’s use and occupation of the disputed property.
Kissoon pressed Gafoor on a February 27, 2008 injunction issued by Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, barring him from trespassing on the property, which was identified as the Boyer’s of National Hardware.
Gafoor admitted that, despite knowing of the order, he refused to disclose this information in his sworn affidavits to the court. Gafoor confessed further, that he chose not to mention the injunction in the petition, even though he had been the Chairman and or Chief Executive Officer of GRIL at the time.
When questioned why GRIL is currently not in possession of the disputed property, Gafoor explained that during December 2009, the property was destroyed by persons allegedly acting on instruction of the Boyers. Justice George-Wiltshire then questioned whether or not, Gafoor was sure that the property was destroyed on the Boyers’ order. He admitted that it was just hearsay.
He went on to say that he became aware of the demolition, when persons that he permitted to stay there, informed him that they were being forced out. At that time, the Boyers were said to be in possession of a transport, naming them as the legal owners of the property.
“In September 2007 the top of the building facing Regent Street was demolished, we subsequently built a roof to prevent rain from getting in. In 2009 December, the roof was demolished again. Before it was demolished, it was occupied by [one] Mr. Persaud… The building facing Alexander Street was demolished in September 2007, along with the two storey building at the back…” Gafoor added, “today the top storey has been replaced, but not by us.”
When it was GRIL’s attorneys turn to question Gafoor, Mr Boston asked him to explain his relationship with the persons who were occupying the building at the time. The court heard that the occupants were told by Gafoor that they could remain on the premises freely until he received the transport for the property.
Gafoor said that GRIL had not been in possession of the premises because it was yet to receive the transport.
Further probes from Boston revealed that Mr Persaud, who had permission to stay at the premises, in turn sublet to two other individuals, who Gafoor claims went to him in December 2009, complaining that they had been threatened by Boyer.
GRIL employee, Indar Chand, was then admitted to the witness box. The court heard that Chand had been employed by GRIL’s sister company since October 1969. Chand said that between 1994 and 1996, he worked as a manager of GRIL Hardware and Paint at the Regent and Alexander Street property.
The defence later used Chand’s testimony to establish that GRIL had been in sole and uninterrupted possession of the disputed property from 1993 to some time around 2008, which would verify its claim for prescriptive title.
“When Mr. Gafoor took me there to see if it was suitable for a paint shop. I told him yes and a few days after he bought the place…” Chand explained.
Chand was readmitted to the witness box, after attorneys for GRIL came into possession of a newspaper article from Guyana Chronicle dated October 31, 1993, where A. Gafoor and Son published the opening of GRIL’s company.
Chand was asked to identify himself in a photo that accompanied the article, and positively did so by marking off his face.
The matter is next scheduled to continue on April 23, 2015.