Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is seeking $1 billion in damages on behalf of his client A&V Drilling when the matter goes before an Arbitration Tribunal in January next year.
Accompanied by a battery of lawyers which included attorneys Michael Rooplal, Prakash Ramadhar, Jagdeo Singh and Ronnie Bissessar, Maharaj made his intentions clear as he addressed members of the media during a press conference at his office in San Fernando on Saturday.
As he had done many times in the past, Maharaj reiterated "that Petrotrin had wrongfully terminated A&V's contract and will be liable to pay A&V substantial damages."
The Tribunal which comprises a panel of arbitrators including former president of the Caribbean Court of Justice Sir Dennis Byron, former judge of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Lord Hope and retired Justice of Appeal Humphrey Stollmeyer, will meet in January 2020.
Maharaj said the Privy Council did not determine the case of wrongful termination of the contract by Petrotrin noting that it is through the Tribunal that A&V's chief executive officer, Haniff Baksh will get justice.
"A&V did not have a right of appeal to the Privy Council. lt had to get leave of the Privy Council to appeal. In order to get leave, it had to show that the appeal concerned a point of law of general and public importance. The Privy Council held that there was not a point of law of general and public importance," Maharaj said as he sought to explain how the matter ended up before a Tribunal.
He said apart from suffering from defamation of character and loss of business, A&V has not been paid for crude oil supplied to Petrotrin since June 2017.
Predicting a victory at the Tribunal, Maharaj said, "I am 150 per cent sure that there could be only one result in this case. Lord Hope is not going to tolerate unfairness and injustice."
Owner of the Sunshine newspaper and former Works Minister Jack Warner who attended the press conference asked Maharaj whether arbitration was the final step.
Maharaj responded, "There is a school of thought that says if there is an error of law the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction, but only if there is an error of law." Maharaj noted that no contractor replaced A&V in the Catshill field after the contract was terminated. "As Baksh's lawyers we're very aggressively opposed to this and if this was done, damages would have been heightened."
He noted that the Tribunal can make an order for damages.
When asked how much damages they wanted, Maharaj said, "Damages in terms of one billion dollars." Asked whether he was fighting Baksh's case pro bono, Maharaj responded, "I don't think that question should arise. I feel strongly about this case. I feel it's an injustice to me. I have an extreme passion for this case and I will ensure that Baksh gets justice."
He said lawyers for A&V had several reports from Petrotrin's experts that the oil wells operated by A&V at the Catshill field had the oil reservoir capacity to produce the volume of oil that A&V produced and sold to Petrotrin. He said the Petrotrin records showed the pump also had the capacity as well as proof that the measurement system used by Petrotrin was flawed and could not be relied upon. He also said the treatment meted out to Baksh only served to hamper public investments.
"State companies must not use the courts for the purpose of delaying payments to the private sector. State companies which employ that strategy are not only dishonouring their contractual obligations but are also engaging in action which negatively impacts on private sector investment," he added.
Maharaj noted that the independent Kroll report which Petrotrin used to terminate A&V's contract had kept hidden from A&V lawyers. However he said this report could not save Petrotrin at this time as there were many other reports available which proved that Baksh was wronged by the company.