14th Apr 2019
Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George-Wiltshire on Friday ended a bitter decade-long battle between Guyana’s two leading commercial entities… Guyana Realty Investments Limited (GRIL), which is linked to Gafoors Group of Companies, and National Hardware… for the ownership of a prime commercial property located at 117 B Regent and Alexander Streets, Georgetown.
The case ended with the court ruling in favour of National Hardware’s favour and dismissing GRILs petition for prescriptive title.
The parties were represented by some of Guyana’s legal heavyweights- National Hardware by Devindra Kissoon of London House Chambers and Rajendra Poonai S.C., while GRIL represented by Rex McKay S.C., Edward Luckhoo S.C. and Neil Boston S.C.
In what is one of the most followed property disputes in recent memory, Claude and Donna Deygoo, also known as Eddie and Donna Boyer, the proprietors of National Hardware, claimed that they had transported title to, and have been the legal owners of the property since September 2008.
However, GRIL claimed prescriptive title, having allegedly purchased the property from a third party (Bissoon) in 1993 to use the premises to operate a paint shop.
The property was originally owned by Stanley Collymore who died in 1989, and then controlled by his son Anthony Collymore
In her ruling, the Chief Justice noted that under cross-examination, one of GRIL’s main witnesses, Mohamed Ali, admitted that he “lacked personal knowledge of the property for the period 1989 to 1996. At the conclusion of his evidence, it was clear that for the most part, this witness was not personally aware of the facts included in the petition, which he deposed were true and correct. By relying on company documents and what he had been told, his was a reliance on hearsay.”
The Chief Justice in reviewing the testimony of Sattaur Gafoor, head of GRIL, noted that under cross-examination, he admitted that the plan of the property attached in support of the petition did not refer to GRIL but rather another entity, National Investments Limited. When asked by attorney-at-law Kissoon about other occupants of the property, including evidence that the back buildings were occupied by unsavory characters and was a drug yard, the Chief Justice ruled, “I do not accept the explanation given in re-examination [by Gafoor] that the reason why letters [of removal] were not sent to the persons of the back buildings was because he had given them permission to be there.”
Gafoor, according to the court, was unable to answer in cross-examination, why letters of removal were not sent to occupants of the property and why GRIL did not seek to repair or demolish the buildings or erect new buildings on the Property if it truly owned the Property.
Chief Justice George noted, “Apart from the fact that this is also hearsay, this evidence to my mind re-emphasises that GRIL was not in control of the other buildings and as a result was not in exclusive control of the entire property.
“He also said that though it was not stated in the petition, GRIL was in possession via Gafsons which used the property for trading. However, from the rest of the evidence, it was the front building to Regent Street that was being so used.”
In dismissing GRILs petition and ordering costs in favour of National Hardware, the Chief Justice found that the “evidence for GRIL does not establish actual possession and an intention to possess the whole property for the requisite period.”