Gov’t prepares to fight legal challenge to GPH deal

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The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has stated it is prepared to defend its Global Ports Agreement in court.

Yesterday, it disclosed that the Chairman of Global Ports Holding (GPH) Mehmet Kutman and two of his advisers are working with the government and its attorney, Anthony Astaphan SC, as they prepare to fight a “frivolous case”.

Last month, a legal action was filed in the High Court last month by three claimants — Sir George Ryan, James Spencer and Clefrin “Chalkie” Colbourne.

They are represented by the Political Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Attorney Harold Lovell, who said that the case is not a political ploy but has merit since the High Court has determined so.

The applicants challenged the government’s decision to enter into an agreement with GPH without first making an application to the Tenders’ Board, established by the 1991 Tenders Board Act; a breach of the 2006 Finance Administration Act; and that the decision was made without informing those affected or concerned by the decision including, but not limited to, the St. John’s Development Corporation (SJDC).

However, the government said the UPP leader’s claim that “a Judge of the High Court had determined that the lawsuits he filed have merit”, was “untruthful.”

The Cabinet stated that “there was no ex parte hearing” and “while the poorly argued and badly constructed pleadings submitted by the UPP lawyer are indefensible, the government’s lawyer would nevertheless arm himself, as any competent defense attorney should.”

The government also accused the parties of trying to retard the port project.

In February 2019, GPH signed a US $80 million agreement with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to manage cruise port facilities and operations in the country.

Since then, there have been several protests, mostly organized by the Faithful Nationals and Concerned Citizens group and the main opposition party, the UPP.

 Since then the government announced two proposed amendments to the original deal, including granting Antiguans and Barbudans the ability to buy shares in GPH, and to reduce the exclusivity clause from 30 years to 10.

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