February 19 ,2021
The Giftland Group says it has gotten judgment in its favour in a more than five-year-old battle with the Georgetown Mayor & City Council (M&CC) which it had said accused it of owing in excess of $100 million in rates and taxes.
According to a press release from the Giftland Group its long contentious tax issue with the City Council was finally resolved yesterday before acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire SC who found that the Council had acted illegally and that no taxes are currently owed by the Giftland Mall.
Contacted last evening, attorney Timothy Jonas SC who represented Giftland, confirmed the ruling having been made by the Chief Justice.
He explained that the M&CC had gotten a valuation of the mall from a valuation officer, but that this was done in breach of the Valuation Act since among other things, no notice had been given to Giftland (the Applicants).
The lawyer explained too, that contrary to procedure, the defendants (M&CC) charged his clients interest on arrears that had not even existed; while noting that even if interest could have been charged, it needed to have been simple interest and not compounded interest.
Jonas said that that compounded interest charged by the Council was 21% which was exponentially higher than if it were simple interest.
The lawyer said that he challenged the valuation and the interest.
He said that having heard the arguments, the Court set aside the valuation, and a demand notice which the Council had sent his clients regarding the payment of taxes.
He then noted that the Chief Justice granted a declaration that Giftland is not indebted for rates and taxes, arrears or interest as claimed by the Council.
According to the release, the Giftland Group and Chairman, Roy Beepat have been “fully vindicated against the damage wrought by the Mayor.
Last June, Mayor Ubraj Narine had accused Giftland of shirking its tax obligations for the past five years.
The Giftland Mall, however, had said that it was the City which had delayed an agreed settlement and then attempted to seek interest for the time that had elapsed.
The Mayor had said at that time that Giftland Mall owed City Hall over $103 million in rates and taxes and had not paid any rates or taxes nor any interest on what was owed since the mall’s opening in July, 2015.
A subsequent statement issued by the Giftland Group had, however, said that the Company had been actively pursuing City Hall for five years in an effort to have the issue amicably settled.
Beepat had said at that time that former Town Clerk Royston King had negotiated a settlement but in three years despite many attempts to have this drawn into a binding written contract, it was never completed by the city.
It was Beepat’s contention that the Mayor insisted on interest of 21% on what was owed, and a penalty in the figure of approximately $43 million, notwithstanding the company’s argument that it had spent close to $500 million on public works, which included the public access road to the Mall and the Demerara estate, street lighting, a bus shed, walkways and irrigation.
Further, Beepat had said the Mayor was also told that the Mall had not received the benefit of one day of service from the city, including basic garbage collection, as the Mall has had to undertake these services at its own cost.
According to the release issued by Giftland following the ruling yesterday, the Company said it is prepared to “offer an olive branch to the M&CC to find a way to work together recognizing that the country cannot run without taxes.”
According to the release, “despite its malicious attack on our reputation, we continue to be here to serve all Guyanese people with the highest standards possible and look forward to your continued support.”
The council was represented by attorney Darren Wade.
The Attorney General was also listed as a defendant in the action.