Titan’s appeal against government fails Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 June 2017 00:00

The Court of Appeal has vindicated the Barrow Administration’s position, and it has lifted an 8.8 million dollar judgment that the Supreme Court said was owed to Bahamians Rohn Knowles and Kelvin Leach. The panel of judges agreed that the police department went too far with their search and seizure at their Titan Securities International Office, but not so far that an award of damages are owed.

As readers will remember, in September of 2014, US officials unsealed an indictment naming Knowles, Leach, their company, and other defendants. They were being accused of participating in securities fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering in which US government was owed 1 billion dollars in tax revenues.

The Government of the US requested the assistance the Belize government to prosecute the defendants, and on September 9, 2014, the police department’s Anti-Drug Unit went into the Titan Securities office at the Matalon Building. At the Coney Drive office, the police officers conducted a raid which lasted for several hours, and they cleaned out the Titan office of all company records, business documents, and computers.

The company owners, Rohn Knowles, and Kelvin Leach, sued the Government for damages, claiming 23 million US dollars. The case was argued before Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel, and in January of last year, he ruled in favor of the Bahamians. He found that the search and seizure was excessive, and that they should be paid 4.46 million US dollars in damages.

Prime Minister Barrow and the Government’s legal team immediately had insight that the judgment couldn’t stand, and within days, he insisted that the Government would appeal. In March, Denys Barrow, argued the case before the Court of Appeal. It was one of the last cases he litigated on the Government’s behalf, before being appointed to the Caribbean Court of Justice. The premise of the Appeal was that the police did seize Titan Security’s office possessions, but that is not really what caused their business to shutdown.

The government’s position was that this business was dead the moment when the US Government’s International Financial Service’s Commission suspended their license to operate securities trade. If it has no earning capability, then it has no value, and therefore to compensate them for the loss in business was wrong.

The Court of Appeal considered the arguments which Barrow made on behalf of the Government, and those made by Eamon Courtenay, on behalf of the Bahamians. On Friday, June 16, the Court handed down its decision and allowed the appeal partially for the Government. The Appeal Court judges agreed with the Supreme Court that the raid on Titan did go too far. They did not agree, however, that the Bahamians are entitled to damages. So, they reversed the ruling, which releases Belizean tax payers of that judgment debt.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke told the press, “The court basically says that the trial judge awarded damages is in relation to compensation is set aside. One major reason is in fact that the company was not in operation. They had no license at the time to operate, so they basically suffered no loss.”

Keep in mind also that while it is a victory, the Bahamians have the option to appeal this decision to the Caribbean Court of Justice. If they do that, the fight over damages would continue.