THE MULTI-MILLION dollar “cartel claim” that was brought by the Estate Management Business Development Company (EMBD) against five companies and several individuals, including Opposition member Dr Roodal Moonilal will proceed to trial.
On Thursday, High Court judge Justice James Aboud dismissed applications by five of the companies seeking to have the court strike out the EMBD’s claim against them on the basis that the facts had been “improperly pleaded”.
But in a 100-page ruling, the judge said the EMBD had presented sufficient preliminary evidence that should be determined by the court at an eventual trial.
“Someone has to explain at the appropriate time in a way that is sensible how it is that these unusual patterns, oddities, and inconsistencies can exist other than by collusion by contractors," said the judge.
He went on to add that the companies that have countersued the EMBD for breach of contract after they claimed they did not receive full payment for works carried out, have not as yet even filed defences in the substantive claim.
Therefore, they are unable to prove at this stage that the EMBD’s action against them was unwarranted.
Now that the preliminary issue has been determined, the judge now has to deal with a series of applications by the companies for an extension of time to file their defences before the case actually goes to trial.
He said he was prepared to give EMBD some latitude given that the first case management conference (CMC) had not as yet even taken place. It can still, at any time before the first CMC, move to amend its claim.
“I am satisfied that concerted action has been pleaded (by EMBD),” the judge stated.
He went on to say that it would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the court if the matter did not proceed and have those who may have been culpable for alleged fraud-related offences and breach of fiduciary duty be called upon to account.
Justice Aboud stated that some of the contractors “may know some of the wrong and some may know of all” and therefore, answers must be given.
The case centres around 12 contracts for the rehabilitation of road infrastructure that were granted to the five contractors between May and September 2015,
Before the judge is a consolidation of claims by former EMBD chief executive officer Gary Parmassar; former divisional manager Madhoo Balroop; Andrew Walker and companies Fides Ltd, TN Ramnauth, Mootilal Ramhit and Sons, Kallco Company Ltd, Namalco Construction and LCB Contractors.
Out of all of the parties, Justice Aboud said the case against Parmassar seemed to be the strongest.
“Mr Parmassar I think will have a lot to answer for at trial. I think the case against Mr Parmassar is the strongest among all of the cases,” he said.
The lawsuit by alleges that Moonilal and others allege breach of fiduciary duties, cartel behavior, bribery, illegal collusion to enrich themselves along with dishonest assistance and unlawful means conspiracy.
The case alleges that the contractors obtained the contracts, certification and payments from the EMBD by reason of collusion between themselves and others.
Now that the ruling has been delivered the companies, now have 14 days in which to appeal if they so choose.
Provided this is not done, the matter will again come up for hearing before Justice Aboud on August 21.